What is a Yeast Infection?

Yeast infections are a common form of vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina. Almost 75 percent of adult women develop a yeast infection at least once in their lives. It is not considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

What Causes Yeast Infections?

Yeast infections are typically caused by a yeast fungus called candida. Small amounts of candida are always present in your body, living in small numbers in the vagina, mouth and digestive tract. Several factors can promote an overgrowth of yeast in your vagina; these include diabetes, tight-fitting clothing made of synthetic fibers, and remaining in damp or wet clothing such as bathing suits or exercise gear. Other factors affecting yeast growth are using irritating soaps, deodorants, sprays, or douches in the genital area. Certain medications, including hormonal or antibiotic therapies, can 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:

  • Experiencing symptoms for the first time: The symptoms of a yeast infection can be indicative of another type of infection, such as some STDs. Proper diagnosis is important.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding: Some treatments are not recommended for women who are (or may be) pregnant or are breastfeeding.
  • Using latex condoms and/or a diaphragm for birth control: Some treatments can interfere with these forms of birth control.
  • At risk of diabetes: Recurring yeast infections are a sign of diabetes. If you are having repeated yeast infections and have not recently been screened for this disease, you should be.

Yeast infections are a common condition. Although they can be annoying and uncomfortable, they rarely result in serious problems. However, symptoms may persist if left untreated. Your provider can help find any underlying causes of recurrent yeast infections (if any) and get you on a good treatment plan for you.