All about yeast infections

Yeast infections are common; three out of every four women will experience at least one in their life, and if you’ve ever had a yeast infection, you know that they can get pretty uncomfortable. The best way to avoid or manage yeast infections is to know what causes them and what to look for.

Why do yeast infections happen?

Our bodies are covered in bacteria and even fungi that don’t cause any harm to us. The vagina contains all kinds of these microscopic things. Most of the time, this won’t pose any sort of problem. Sometimes, though, there’s an overgrowth of a certain microorganism. When the overgrowth specifically involves too much Candida fungus, this results in a yeast infection. Sex doesn’t cause yeast infections, but they can be transferred during sex or make sex more painful, so it’s smart to avoid sex if your or your partner is getting treated for one.

Who’s at risk?

Women are more likely than men to get yeast infections between puberty and menopause. A lot of things can cause yeast infections, and many people who get them don’t have any risk factors. However, there are some things that increase someone’s risk of a yeast infection: being pregnant, having diabetes, taking hormonal birth control, douching, using vaginal spray, taking certain steroid medications, or having a weakened immune system from HIV.

What are the symptoms?

Most of the time, people suspect they have a yeast infection when they notice a sudden onset of burning, redness, itchiness, or swelling in or around the vagina. They might also feel pain when urinating or during sex, or a general soreness of the vaginal area. Another common symptom of a yeast infection is thick, white vaginal discharge that doesn’t have a very strong smell.

How are yeast infections treated?

The best and most effective way to know if you have a yeast infection is to have a healthcare professional diagnose the condition. People who are frequent sufferers of yeast infections may get to know the symptoms easily and self-treat with over the counter medication. If you’re not sure, or treatment with over the counter medication hasn’t helped your symptoms – seeing a provider is key. There is a simple vaginal swab to determine if it’s a yeast or a different infection, and often you’ll have results the same day. Once diagnosed, you’ll have the choice of buying over-the-counter antifungal medication, or taking prescription oral antifungal.

Are there ways to prevent yeast infections?

There are a few ways lower the chances of a yeast infection. First, it’s best to avoid douching, because douching can throw off the normal pH levels in your vagina. It’s also a good idea to avoid scented feminine products and washes, and to change any tampons, pads, or liners as often as you can. Wearing cotton underwear and avoiding extremely tight clothes helps lower excess moisture that yeast likes to grow in. Wiping front to back keeps fecal material away from your vaginal opening, and reducing one’s time in hot tubs and removing wet bathing suits quickly limits the heat and damp to that area that yeast loves.

Yeast infections are definitely uncomfortable, so if you think you might have one, schedule an appointment with your provider. The sooner you start treatment, the sooner the infection – and all its unpleasant symptoms – will go away.


  • “Vaginal yeast infection.” Fact sheet from the Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, Jan 6 2015. Web.
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