Top of the page
Yeast is a fungus that normally lives in the vagina in small numbers. A vaginal yeast infection means that too many yeast cells are growing in the vagina. These infections are very common. They may bother you a lot, but they usually aren't serious. A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
A healthy vagina has many bacteria and a few yeast cells. When something changes the balance of these organisms, yeast can grow too much and cause symptoms. Things that may increase your risk for vaginal yeast overgrowth include taking antibiotics, high estrogen levels from pregnancy or hormone therapy, or certain health problems, like diabetes.
A yeast infection can cause itching or irritation in the vagina or vulva. It sometimes causes pain or burning when you urinate or have sex. And it may also cause a thick, clumpy, white discharge that has no odour and looks a little like cottage cheese.
Doctors diagnose a vaginal yeast infection by asking about your symptoms and medical history, doing a pelvic exam, and taking a sample of vaginal discharge. The sample can be tested to find out if you have a yeast infection.
Yeast infections can be treated with an over-the-counter antifungal medicine that you put into your vagina. If you think you have a yeast infection, talk to your doctor before you try an over-the-counter medicine. Treatment options also include a prescription oral pill or vaginal medicine.
Genital hygiene practices can help prevent yeast infections. Wash your vulva with plain water or unscented soap. After using the toilet, wipe from front to back. Avoid tight-fitting clothing. Wear cotton underwear. Change out of damp clothes right away. Change pads or tampons often. Don't douche or use vaginal powders, sprays, or perfumes.
A healthy vagina has many bacteria and a small number of yeast cells. Certain bacteria help keep yeast and other organisms under control. When something happens to change the balance of these organisms, yeast can grow too much and cause symptoms.
Things that may increase your risk for an overgrowth of vaginal yeast include:
Most yeast infections are caused by a type of yeast called Candida albicans.
The following actions may help prevent a vaginal yeast infection.
Eat a variety of foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein foods.
Some people think that eating foods with lactobacillus organisms, such as yogurt, can help prevent yeast infections. So far there is no evidence for this connection. But eating foods that contain lactobacillus can be part of a healthy diet.
Keeping your blood sugar levels in your target range can decrease the risk of yeast infections.
Antibiotics can change the normal balance of vaginal organisms, allowing excess growth of yeast.
The symptoms of vaginal yeast infection include:
Symptoms are more likely to occur during the week before your menstrual period.
Vaginal yeast infections may clear up on their own without treatment. This may happen when menstruation begins.
If your symptoms don't go away on their own, treatment can help. But in some cases yeast infections may be difficult to treat. Or they may come back after treatment. If you have a recurring yeast infection, you may be evaluated for other causes (such as diabetes, hormone therapy, or treatment-resistant strains of yeast) so that the cause can be treated.
Call your doctor now if you:
Call your doctor for an appointment if you:
If your symptoms are mild and you are sure they are caused by a vaginal yeast infection, waiting several days to see if the symptoms clear up on their own isn't harmful, especially if you expect your menstrual period within that time. Sometimes a menstrual period will relieve the symptoms of a mild yeast infection. If your symptoms continue, you can use non-prescription medicine. If you still have symptoms after treatment, see your doctor.
Doctors diagnose a vaginal yeast infection by asking about your symptoms and medical history, doing a pelvic exam, and taking a sample of vaginal discharge. The sample can be tested to find out if you have a yeast infection. Tests may include:
A mild vaginal yeast infection may go away without treatment. If your symptoms are mild, you may want to wait to see if they clear up on their own.
If your symptoms continue, talk to your doctor. Yeast infections can be treated with an over-the-counter antifungal medicine that you put into your vagina. If you think you have a yeast infection, talk to your doctor before you try an over-the-counter medicine. Treatment options also include a prescription oral pill or vaginal medicine.
Here are some things you can do at home to ease symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection.
When you clean your vulva, use plain water or a mild, unscented soap.
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: Kathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineDeborah A. Penava BA, MD, FRCSC, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Deborah A. Penava BA, MD, FRCSC, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.