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Vaginal yeast infection

Uterus
Normal uterine anatomy (cut section)

Definition

Vaginal yeast infection is an infection of the vagina. It is most commonly due to the fungus Candida albicans.

Alternative Names

Yeast infection - vagina; Vaginal candidiasis; Monilial vaginitis

Causes

Most women have a vaginal yeast infection at some time. Candida albicans is a common type of fungus. It is often found in small amounts in the vagina, mouth, digestive tract, and on the skin. Most of the time, it does not cause infection or symptoms.

Candida and the many other germs that normally live in the vagina keep each other in balance. However, sometimes the number of Candida increases, leading to a yeast infection.

This can happen if:

A yeast infection is not spread through sexual contact. However, some men will develop symptoms such as itching and a rash on the penis after having sexual contact with an infected partner.

Having many vaginal yeast infections may be a sign of other health problems. Other vaginal infections and discharges can be mistaken for a vaginal yeast infection.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

Exams and Tests

You will have a pelvic exam. It may show:

A small amount of the vaginal discharge is examined using a microscope. This is called a wet mount and KOH test.

Sometimes, a culture is taken when the infection does not get better with treatment or comes back many times.

Your health care provider may order other tests to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

Treatment

Medicines to treat vaginal yeast infections are available as creams, ointments, vaginal tablets or suppositories and oral tablets. Most can be bought without needing to see your provider.

Treating yourself at home is probably OK if:

Medicines you can buy yourself to treat a vaginal yeast infection are:

When using these medicines:

You doctor can also prescribe a pill that you only take by mouth once.

If your symptoms are worse or you get vaginal yeast infections often, you may need:

To help prevent and treat vaginal discharge:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most of the time, symptoms go away completely with proper treatment.

Possible Complications

A lot of scratching may cause the skin to crack, making you more likely to get a skin infection.

Repeat infections that occur right after treatment, or a yeast infection that does not respond well to treatment, may be an early sign of diabetes or rarely, HIV.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

References

Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Infections of the lower genital tract. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 23.

Habif TP. Superficial fungal infections. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2016:chap 13.

Hoefgen HR, Merritt DF. Vulvovaginitis. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 549.

Kauffman CA. Candidiasis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 338.


Review Date: 11/5/2015
Reviewed By: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.