Yeast infections are incredibly common, impacting 75% of all women. Learn the symptoms, avoidance tips, and treatment info. (Psst, we're talking about a different type of yeast than that in cinnamon rolls... but who wants to click on a picture of a yeast infection?)
Yeast is a common fungus that naturally occurs in the vagina. A yeast infection happens when there is an imbalance between ‘good’ bacteria and ‘bad’ yeast in the vagina and/or the genital area. The most common type of yeast causing infections is called Candida.
The common signs of a yeast infection are itching and/or white often thick discharge, a yeasty odor, redness and swelling of the vulva. Some women note vaginal dryness, pain with intercourse or urination and/or a rash. However, yeast infections can be totally asymptomatic.
Yes, extremely common—75% of all women will have at least one yeast infection in their lifetime. Yeast infections are not necessarily a serious health threat. Although it may be very uncomfortable, it generally does not spread to other parts of the body, and it is not a major threat to one's health.
Yeast infections frequently arise spontaneously, but there are certain things that put you more at risk. Yeast thrives in hot, dark, moist places so try to limit or at least be aware of activities that increase your risks, such as wearing tight clothing like thongs, pantyhose and spandex leggings. Especially make it a habit to change out of sweaty workout clothes as soon as possible.
Traveling to hot, humid environments or hormonal changes during pregnancy or when taking birth control pills/changing birth control can also lead to yeast infections. And of course, generally lowered resistance due to stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, or other infections in the body increase your risk.
Broad range antibiotics can also increase your risk of developing a yeast infection. While antibiotics are super effective at clearing out the bacteria that cause UTIs, the broad range antibiotics prescribed for UTIs don’t effectively distinguish between the good bacteria from the bad. You need the good bacteria to balance the pH of your vagina and keep yeast (which normally lives in small numbers in your vagina) from growing out of control.
If you have had a yeast infection before and can recognize the symptoms, and you know you are not pregnant, you can treat yourself at home with over the counter medicines. Antifungal cream or suppositories can treat the infection, or you can use antifungal tablets orally to treat the infection.
If your symptoms are mild, you may want to wait to see if they clear up on their own.
This depends. If you sleep with males they rarely require treatment. Yeast grows best in a moist dark area; male anatomy is not as conducive to the growth of yeast. If your partner is a female she might want to see the doctor even if she doesn’t have symptoms because yeast infections can be asymptomatic. Regardless your partner should wash carefully after sex and if yeast infections occur frequently they may need to be treated.
Try these steps: Wash your vulva and bottom area regularly and try to keep the area dry. Avoid using sprays, harsh soaps, and perfumed products in that area at all costs. Break out your cotton underwear and loose clothing and start working live cultured yogurt into your daily routine. Make sure your clinician is evaluating persistent and recurrent vaginal yeast cultures.