Vaginal Yeast Infection
A vaginal yeast infection is caused by one of a group of fungal organisms known as Candida. These includeand
What is going on in the body?
Candidal organisms (yeasts) are normally found in the vagina in small numbers. Their number is kept in check by the normal bacteria that also live there. Certain factors (discussed below) can disrupt this balance and allow a vaginal yeast infection to develop.
What are the causes and risks of the infection?
Vaginal yeast infections are caused by Candidal organisms. Some diseases and conditions that increase a woman's risk for vaginal yeast infection include:
diabetes that is poorly controlled
immunodeficiency disorders, which weaken the woman's response to infection
Other factors that increase the risk for a vaginal yeast infection include:
- a diet high in sugar
- antibiotic therapy
- corticosteroid use
- oral contraceptive use
- sexual activity, which can change the acid-base balance in the vagina
- wearing tight clothing or nylon underwear
What can be done to prevent the infection?
Helpful measures to prevent vaginal yeast infections include:
controlling blood glucose levels if the woman has diabetes
limiting intake of dietary sugars
limiting time spent in wet or damp clothing
using antifungal creams, such as miconazole, clotrimazole, or nystatin when taking oral antibiotics
wearing loose clothing and cotton underwear
wiping the buttocks from front to back after bowel movements
How is the infection diagnosed?
Diagnosis of a vaginal yeast infection begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare professional may do a pelvic exam and Pap smear to rule out other infections. A sample of the vaginal discharge may be analyzed in the office under the microscope or sent to the lab to check for Candida and other organisms. A newer test called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is very sensitive and specific in diagnosing yeast infections.
Long Term Effects
What are the long-term effects of the infection?
With proper treatment, the infection should resolve in a few days to a week.
What are the risks to others?
Vaginal yeast infections are not believed to be transmitted from one person to another.
What are the treatments for the infection?
A woman may choose to use an over-the-counter antifungal medicine, although resistance to these agents has increased with excessive use. These medicines are inserted into the vagina. Some examples include miconazole, clotrimazole, and nystatin. The healthcare professional can prescribe stronger antifungal creams, or an oral medicine called fluconazole.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Vaginal creams may cause vulvar burning. Fluconazole may cause stomach upset or allergic reaction.
What happens after treatment for the infection?
Women should avoid sexual intercourse until the symptoms are gone and the course of treatment has been completed. Douching, bubble baths, hygiene sprays, or scented soaps around the vulva may irritate the skin.
How is the infection monitored?
Women who have repeated yeast infections that persist despite treatment should see a healthcare professional. HIV and blood sugar testing should be done in this case. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.