Yeast Infections A yeast infection is a fungal infection on the skin or mucous membranes. Yeast infections are caused by the fungus Candida, and thus are also referred to as candidiasis.
Although vaginal yeast infections are more common than penile yeast infections, both males and females can have yeast infections of the genitals. The fungus Candida albicans is usually present on the skin and mucus membranes of healthy individuals. However, when an imbalance in the body reduces the amount of Lactobacillus or prevents them from functioning, the pH of the vagina can be altered, which leads to an overgrowth of fungus.
Rarely, other strains cause yeast infections, and require different treatment. If a person has frequent, recurring yeast infections, his or her doctor may test for the presence of a different strain of Candida and prescribe a treatment targeted towards that strain. Uncomplicated yeast infections are not recurring or persistent and have mild to moderate symptoms. Itching2 Changes in vaginal discharge; often thick, white, and odorless, with a cottage-cheese like appearance3 Pain during sex2 Soreness of the vaginal area2 Complicated yeast infections may have more severe symptoms and could require a different course of treatment than uncomplicated yeast infections.
A yeast infection is considered to be complicated if any of the following factors are present: Symptoms of a yeast infection may mimic the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis BV , another vaginal infection, but these infections require vastly different treatments.
One third of all cases of vaginitis are caused by yeast infections. Although yeast infections are uncomfortable and bothersome, they are not serious infections and do not have long-term consequences. Certain sexually transmitted infections STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea may have yeast-infection-like symptoms , but they will not respond to the yeast infection treatment, and can have serious complications if left untreated, including infertility.
Although a doctor can often diagnose a yeast infection with a simple examination, they will usually take a vaginal culture and send it to a lab for confirmation.
It is extremely important, however, not to diagnose yourself if you have never had a yeast infection before or if you are at all unsure of your self-diagnosis. Symptoms of yeast infections often overlap with those of other infections.
However, yeast infections do not always clear up without treatment, and for some females the discomfort is so severe that they require immediate treatment.
There are a variety of treatment methods available; you and your doctor will discuss which one is best for you. Some of the treatment options require a prescription, whereas others can be obtained over the counter. A single dose of the oral medication fluconazole2 A three to seven day regimen of the antifungal clotrimazole, in one of the following forms: You and your healthcare provider will determine the best option for you based on your lifestyle and your medical history.
Generally, symptoms of yeast infections will subside after a week of treatment, but may take up to 14 days to fully disappear. It is important to follow up with your doctor to make sure that the infection is gone. You should also follow up if your symptoms do not ease up in two weeks, if you have another yeast infection within two months of the first one, or if you have recurring yeast infections four or more in a year.
A longer course of vaginal therapy such clotrimazole in the form of a cream, ointment, tablet, or suppository ; usually seven to fourteen days long3 Multiple doses of the oral medication fluconazole3 A maintenance plan3 A maintenance plan is a routine that females with recurring yeast infections follow to keep yeast levels under control and prevent future infections.
Existing yeast infections must be treated before beginning the maintenance plan. Maintenance therapy usually consists of a weekly oral dose of fluconazole, but if oral therapy is not an option such as in the case of pregnancy , a doctor will prescribe a weekly clotrimazole suppository. Maintenance treatment is usually six months long. During pregnancy, the body undergoes a wide variety of changes, including chemical changes in the vagina and vulva.
For example, there is generally more sugar in the vaginal secretions of a pregnant female that yeast can feed on. This can allow the yeast to multiply and grow out of control.
You and your doctor need to consider and test for more serious conditions that could harm the fetus. Because of this, only vaginal creams and suppositories are recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding females.
It may take 10 to 14 days for the yeast infection to clear up. Unfortunately, yeast infections are much harder to treat in pregnant females, and oftentimes will recur or will not respond to treatment. It is important for a female to follow up with her doctor to make sure the treatment is working, especially if her symptoms persist or worsen. Still, there are some precautions that can be taken, including the following: