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Vaginal Yeast Infection

Alternate Names

  • vulvovaginal candidiasis

Definition

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.

Risks

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
  • HIV infection
  • immunodeficiency disorders, which weaken the woman's response to infection
  • pregnancy
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

Prevention

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

Diagnosed

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.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Vaginal yeast infections are not believed to be transmitted from one person to another.

Treatments

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.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Vaginal creams may cause vulvar burning. Fluconazole may cause stomach upset or allergic reaction.

After Treatment

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.

Monitor

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.

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