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What is a Yeast Infection?
Yeast infections are a common condition among women. Almost 75 percent of adult women develop a yeast infection at least once in their lives, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A yeast infection is a form of vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina. Unlike other forms, vaginitis, such as trichomoniasis, yeast infections are not considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Vaginal yeast infections primarily affect adult women, but may also affect older girls. In instances, yeast infections may be transmitted to men through sexual intercourse.
What causes yeast infections
Also known as candida vaginal infections, yeast infections are typically caused by a yeast fungus called candida. There are four types of candida. A variety called Candida Albicans causes the majority of vaginal yeast infections.
Small amounts of candida are always present in your body, living in small numbers in the vagina, mouth and digestive tract. The fungus can infect other moist regions of the body as well, such as the skin folds and nail beds.
Several factors can promote an overgrowth of yeast in your vagina. Yeast infections are common in pregnant women because hormonal changes may increase the amount of sugar in the vaginal secretions. Girls may develop yeast infections just before they get their menstrual period for the same reason. The sugar provides the nourishment for the yeast to grow. Similarly, women with uncontrolled diabetes may have an increased risk of developing yeast infections due to a higher sugar level.
Wearing tight-fitting clothing or garments (especially undergarments) made synthetic fibers may increase the likelihood of yeast infections. If you remain in wet clothes, such as a bathing suit or exercise gear, you are also providing an environment suitable for yeast to grow.
Irritating soaps, deodorants or sprays used in the genital area may upset the acid level of the vagina and lead to a yeast infection. Certain medications, including birth control pills and antibiotics, may increase your risk of developing a yeast infection as well.
When to see a doctor
Most women can easily recognize the signs of a yeast infection, particularly if they have experienced one previously in their lives. The most common symptoms are a white vaginal discharge and vaginal itching.
Since treatments are available over the counter, it may be tempting to use those treatments without seeing a physician. However, it is important to see your physician if you are: