Vaginal yeast infections, also known as candidiasis, are very common, affecting over a million women in the US each year. It’s estimated that 75% of women will have a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lives. Although it’s usually not dangerous, the symptoms caused by a yeast infection can be very uncomfortable.
How can you get a yeast infection?
Inside of a normal, healthy vagina, there are lots of microorganisms growing. These include bacteria, with Lactobacillus bacteria usually being the most common type. In addition, there’s a yeast known as Candida. Usually, this yeast is present in small numbers. The bacteria tend to keep the yeast in check, so that there’s only a little bit of it.
A yeast infection occurs when the balance of microorganisms in the vagina is disrupted. The Candida yeast grows out of control, leading to a variety of symptoms. Many different factors can disrupt the balance of microorganisms in the vagina, and it’s not always possible to pinpoint what caused a yeast infection.
Candida is also found in other areas of the body, and it can overgrow and cause symptoms of candidiasis. Genital infections in women are the most common type of yeast infection in healthy adults, with other areas of infection, like the mouth, being less common.
What are the common yeast infection symptoms?
Common Candida symptoms in women include:
- Itching, burning, or irritation of the vulva or vagina
- Redness and swelling around the entrance to the vagina
- Vaginal discharge, often described as “cottage cheese like” in texture and with a “bread like” smell
- Burning with urination or penetrative sex
These yeast infection side effects are similar to those of many other common diseases. Particularly with the vaginal discharge, signs of a yeast infection may not be easy to tell apart from bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. Sometimes the appearance and smell of the vaginal discharge from a yeast infection is a clue as to the diagnosis, but women don’t always have any discharge at all, or it may look and smell different than the “textbook” examples.
How can you get tested for a yeast infection?
The symptoms of a yeast infection are similar to those of many other common diseases, but the treatment needed for a yeast infection is different. To ensure that you get the right treatment, testing is generally recommended. You can visit your doctor and have them perform the test, or you can choose to use a home testing kit that looks for several common causes of vaginitis (vaginal inflammation).
If you choose the home kit, then you’ll take your sample yourself at home, and send it into a laboratory to be tested. You’ll then get your results online in a few days and will have the opportunity to discuss your results with a medical professional if you test positive for any of the conditions.
Can a yeast infection burn?
Yeast infections can cause burning with urination. Many women also experience a burning sensation during intercourse when they have a yeast infection.
Can antibiotics cause a yeast infection?
Certain types of antibiotics can kill the beneficial bacteria in the vagina that normally keep Candida yeast in check. The yeast itself is not affected by most antibiotics. This is because, while antibiotics kill bacteria, yeast infection symptoms are caused by a type of fungus rather than a type of bacteria. (A different type of medication called an antifungal is needed to kill Candida.)
When the bacteria that normally compete with it are removed, the yeast can grow out of control. Because of this, it’s common to get a yeast infection while taking antibiotics for a different type of infection, or shortly after.
Is a yeast infection an STD?
Although sex can sometimes cause a yeast infection by introducing new bacteria into the vagina, yeast infections are not considered to be sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). This is because the woman generally already has the Candida yeast in her vagina, rather than getting it from her partner. A woman gets a yeast infection because the yeast gets out of balance in her body, not because she got infected with the yeast from her partner.
How do I know if I have a yeast infection?
Having common yeast infection signs and symptoms can be a strong indication that you may have a yeast infection. However, because it can be difficult to tell a yeast infection apart from other common causes of similar symptoms (including bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea), testing is often recommended to ensure that you get the correct diagnosis and treatment.
Are there symptoms at the beginning of a yeast infection?
The early signs of a yeast infection may be some itching, irritation, or burning around the opening of the vagina. This may get more intense as the infection gets worse. Some women may notice a lot of yeast vaginal discharge, while others don’t have any.
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Yeast Infections. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/5019-yeast-infections. Accessed 27 August 2022.
Yeast infection (vaginal). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/yeast-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20378999. Accessed 27 August 2022.
Vaginal yeast infection (thrush): Overview. National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK543220/. Accessed 27 August 2022.