Vaginal yeast infections, also known as candidiasis, are a common female condition. Yeast infections are caused by the fungus candida. This fungus is associated with intense itching, swelling, and irritation.
According to the Mayo Clinic, three out of four women will experience a yeast infection at one point in their lives (Mayo). In addition, once you get a yeast infection, you are more likely to get another one.
Vaginal yeast infections can be spread by sexual contact, but in general are not considered a sexually transmitted infection. Treatment for yeast infections is relatively simple depending on their severity.
The Candida genus of yeast is a naturally occurring microorganism in the vaginal area. Its growth is kept in check by the the lactobacillus bacteria. However, these bactera cant work effectively if there is an imbalance in your system. This leads to an overgrowth of yeast, which causes the symptoms of vaginal yeast infections to be present.
Most yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans—a specific strand of yeast. These yeast infections are easily treatable. If you are having recurring yeast infections or problems getting rid of a yeast infection with conventional treatment, then a different version of Candida might be the culprit. A lab test can let your doctor know which type of Candida you have.
The imbalance that allows the overgrowth of yeast can happen due to:
Vaginal yeast infections have a common set of symptoms. Usually the length of time your yeast infection is left untreated can have a direct impact on how severe your symptoms are.
Frequent symptoms include:
Yeast infections are simple to diagnose. Doctors will normally begin by getting information regarding your medical history. This will include whether or not you have had prior yeast infections. Normally, doctors will also ask if you have ever had a sexually transmitted infection.
The next step is a pelvic exam. Your doctor will examine your vagina and the surrounding area to see if there are external signs of infection. He or she will also examine your vaginal walls and cervix. Depending on what your doctor discovers, he or she will take a vaginal culture to send to the lab for confirmation. Tests are usually ordered only for women that have yeast infections on a regular basis or infections that will not go away.
After an initial diagnosis, you may be able to determine the presence of a future yeast infection on your own.
Your doctor will treat your yeast infection according to its severity and complications.
For simple yeast infections, your doctor will usually prescribe the following treatment(s):
Women with simple yeast infections should make sure to follow up with their doctor to make sure the medicine worked. A follow-up will also be necessary if your symptoms return within two months.
Certain types of Candida will not respond to normal treatment and will require an aggressive course of treatment. If you meet one of the following criteria, your doctor will more than likely treat your yeast infection as if it were a severe or complicated case:
Possible treatments for severe or complicated yeast infections could include:
You can treat vaginal yeast infections with natural remedies if you would like to avoid taking prescription medication. According to the Mayo Clinic, these are some of the most popular natural remedies:
In many cases, you may know exactly what led to your yeast infection. For example, some women experience these infections every time they take antibiotics. By recognizing your own risk factors, you can prevent future infections.
Here are some common methods of prevention, most targeted at avoiding bacteria growth near the vagina: