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Mar 26, 2024

Women's Health

What Can You Do About Vaginal Yeast Infections

What Are Vaginal Yeast Infections?

Vaginal yeast infections, medically known as "vaginal candidiasis," are fairly common infections. They occur when there's an overgrowth of a yeast called Candida that normally lives in balance with other microbes on our bodies, including in the vagina, mouth, and on the skin.

Symptoms of Yeast Infections

  • Itching: An uncomfortable, often intense itchy feeling in the vagina or vulva.
  • Burning sensation: This might especially be felt during urination or sex.
  • Vaginal discharge: This discharge may be thick, white, and odorless, resembling cottage cheese.
  • Pain during sex: Discomfort or pain during intercourse.
  • Redness and swelling: The vulva may become red and swollen, and you might notice small tears or cracks in the skin due to itching.

It's important to resist the urge to scratch as it can worsen the irritation and lead to further complications.

What Causes a Yeast Infection?

Several factors can disrupt the natural balance of Candida and lead to a yeast infection:

  • Antibiotics: These drugs can kill beneficial bacteria in the vagina, providing a chance for yeast to overgrow.
  • Hormonal changes: Pregnancy or hormonal birth control can alter the vaginal environment, potentially leading to yeast infections. Note that condoms do not increase this risk.
  • Weakened immune system: People with conditions like HIV or those undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy may be more prone to infections, including yeast infections.
  • Certain health conditions: For instance, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to excess sugar in urine, which feeds the yeast.
  • Sexual activity: While not considered a sexually transmitted infection, sexually active people may experience yeast infections more frequently.

Diagnosing Vaginal Yeast Infections

Since these symptoms can mimic other conditions, including sexually transmitted infections, it's important to consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis. They will likely perform a physical examination and may take swabs or urine samples to identify the cause.

Avoid self-diagnosing and treating as this can sometimes lead to complications or ineffective treatment.

Treatment Options

After a diagnosis, there are several treatments available:

  • Vaginal antifungal creams
    These can be purchased over-the-counter and are used to treat the infection directly at the site. Examples include products like Monistat (miconazole).
  • Vaginal antifungal tablets or suppositories:
    These are also placed directly into the vagina to treat the infection. They should not be swallowed.
  • Oral antifungal tablets
    These systemic treatments are taken by mouth and are available both over-the-counter and by prescription. Remember, these should not be inserted into the vagina.

Follow the course of treatment as directed. If you do not see improvement or if symptoms persist, you should return to your healthcare provider for further evaluation and treatment options.

Preventing Yeast Infections

While not all yeast infections can be prevented, here are some tips that may help reduce your risk:

  • Wear breathable, cotton underwear and avoid tight-fitting pants or pantyhose.
  • Change out of wet clothing, such as swimsuits or gym attire, as soon as possible.
  • Avoid douching or using scented feminine hygiene products that can disrupt the natural balance of microbes in the vagina.
  • Incorporate probiotics into your diet, which may help maintain the balance of good bacteria in your body.

By understanding what vaginal yeast infections are, recognizing the symptoms, and knowing when to seek treatment, you can manage your vaginal health more effectively. If you're ever in doubt, it's best to reach out to a healthcare professional for guidance.


  1. Sobel, J. (n.d.). Patient education: Vaginal yeast infection (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate. Retrieved August 9, 2023, from
  2. Vaginal Candidiasis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, July 13). Retrieved August 9, 2023, from

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