Vaginal yeast infection symptoms, causes and treatment methods

  • A yeast infection causes symptoms such as white discharge, itching, burning, and general discomfort.
  • Antibiotics, hormonal changes, immune deficiency, and more can cause yeast infections.
  • You can treat it with topical antifungal medications or oral medications.

If you have an itchy vagina and a cottage cheese-like discharge, you may have a yeast infection.

This type of fungal infection is extremely common, affecting one million women in the United States annually. Furthermore, it is estimated that 75% of women will have a yeast infection at least once in their life.

Yeast infections can range from mild to severe. You may have very minor symptoms and not realize you have an infection at all, or your symptoms can be very bothersome.

Here are the symptoms of a yeast infection, its causes, and how to treat it.

Yeast symptoms

Symptoms of a yeast infection, according to Dr. Zhanna Fridel, OB-GYN at Weill Cornell Medicine, are:

  • Thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese
  • Itchy
  • Burning sensation in the vagina (which can be intensified during sex or while urinating)
  • Inflammation of the vulva and vagina, which may include redness
  • General discomfort, pain, or soreness of the vagina or vulva

Some cases of yeast infections hardly have symptoms, while others may be more serious, called complex yeast infections. In these cases, the itching, redness, and swelling can be so severe that they may result in injury to the skin of the vulva, including cracks, sores, or tears.

Causes of yeast infection

The vagina contains a mixture of natural yeasts and bacteria that help maintain a healthy environment.

But this delicate balance of flora can be disrupted, allowing a fungus called Candida albicans to grow excessively and cause a yeast infection.

Here are some common medications and medical conditions that can cause yeast overgrowth:

  1. take antibiotics: While antibiotics kill the bad bacteria that make you sick, they can also kill the good bacteria, which cause an imbalance in the microbiome, making it possible for yeast to grow.
  2. hormonal changesChanges such as pregnancy or starting birth control can cause hormones to fluctuate, and this can throw off the vaginal pH, leading to more yeast and an increased risk of yeast infections.
  3. Uncontrolled diabetes: If you have diabetes, especially if it’s not under control, this can lead to excess sugar in your urine, which can affect your vagina and cause an overgrowth of yeast. Plus, diabetes weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.
  4. Using sanitary napkins or pads that do not allow air to pass through: This can create an environment for yeast to thrive.
  5. weak immunityBesides diabetes, other conditions that cause you to have weak immunity, such as HIV or cancer, make it difficult for your immune system to fight off any type of infection, including yeast infections.
  6. Create an environment in which yeast thrives: Although this is not intended, some things you do on a daily basis may actually create a vaginal environment that facilitates yeast growth, including:
    • Washing the vagina with perfumed soap
    • wear tight clothes
    • Wearing underwear made of synthetic material
    • Staying in underwear or sweaty clothes

Yeast infection treatment and prevention

If this is the first time you’ve had symptoms like these, it’s important to see your OB-GYN to get an accurate diagnosis, as you likely have another type of vaginal infection such as bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted infection, since there is Some overlapping symptoms. Your doctor may be able to diagnose your condition just by examining your vagina, but sometimes, a sample of the discharge is tested.

Since a yeast infection is an overgrowth of yeast, treatment includes control of the fungus. There are over-the-counter and prescription options available to treat yeast infections. Thomas says the most common are:

  • Over-the-counter topical antifungal agents such as clotrimazole or miconazole (common trade name Monistat)
  • Prescription antifungal oral contraceptive pill fluconazole (brand name Diflucan)

Although over-the-counter antifungals are effective, you should see your doctor first if you are not completely sure that it is a fungal infection. If you have had a yeast infection before and can recognize the signs, you can opt for the over-the-counter option for convenience.

Of course, it’s also helpful to take steps to prevent yeast infections before they start. While you can’t always prevent a yeast infection, Friedel says you can follow these preventative tips to lower your chances:

  • Avoid using unnecessary antibiotics
  • Avoid washing
  • Change of wet or damp underwear/swimwear
  • Wear breathable cotton underwear
  • Take probiotics
  • Don’t over-wash your vagina and use only gentle, unscented products

Informed takeaway

Symptoms such as vaginal itching, burning, inflammation, and a lumpy white discharge are common symptoms of a yeast infection, and they are very common.

Some medicines such as


And the

Birth control

As well as underlying medical conditions such as


HIV can increase your risk of developing a yeast infection.

Fortunately, yeast infections can be treated with both over-the-counter and prescription options. If you have frequent yeast infections, see your doctor to determine if there is a more serious underlying cause that may be contributing and requires treatment.

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