• By Dana Sparks

Women’s Wellness: Vaginal yeast infections

November 16, 2016

a young woman talking seriously with counselor or medical personnel
A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva — the tissues at the vaginal opening. It's a type of vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina. Vaginal yeast infection (also called vaginal candidiasis) affects up to 3 out of 4 women at some point in their lifetimes. Many women experience at least two episodes.

Although a vaginal yeast infection isn't considered a sexually transmitted infection, you can spread the fungus through mouth to genital contact. Medications can effectively treat vaginal yeast infections. If you have recurrent yeast infections — four or more within a year — you may need a longer treatment course and a maintenance plan.

medical illustration of vaginal yeast infection vulvovaginal-candidiasis

Symptoms

Yeast infection symptoms can range from mild to moderate and include:

  • Itching and irritation in the vagina and the tissues at the vaginal opening (vulva)
  • A burning sensation, especially during intercourse or while urinating
  • Redness and swelling of the vulva
  • Vaginal pain and soreness
  • Vaginal rash
  • Watery vaginal discharge
  • Thick, white, odor-free vaginal discharge with a cottage cheese appearance

Complicated yeast infection

You might have a complicated yeast infection if:

  • You have severe symptoms, such as extensive redness, swelling and itching that leads to tears or cracks (fissures) or sores
  • You have four or more yeast infections in a year
  • Your infection is caused by a type of candida other than Candida albicans
  • You're pregnant
  • You have uncontrolled diabetes
  • Your immune system is weakened because of certain medications or conditions such as HIV infection

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if:

  • This is the first time you've had yeast infection symptoms
  • You're not sure whether you have a yeast infection
  • Your symptoms don't disappear after treating with over-the-counter antifungal vaginal creams or suppositories
  • You develop other symptoms

Read more about: Treatments and diagnosis

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