What is a Yeast Infection?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 80 percent of all women will experience a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lives. In fact, it is estimated that 50% of college women in the United States have been diagnosed with at least one yeast infection by the age of 25. Luckily, yeast infections are fairly easy to treat. Yes, they can be very ITCHY and uncomfortable.

What is it and why so common?

Candida, which is a type of yeast or fungus, is normally found in the body. When your body is in balance it usually causes no problems. When the internal environment is out of balance from stress or fatigue, the yeast can over grow. Symptoms include:

  • thick, white, odorless vaginal discharge (described as resembling cottage cheese).
  • vaginal itching and burning.
  • pain or discomfort with urination or sexual intercourse.
  • vulvular redness or irritation.

About 80 percent of yeast infections are caused by a specific species of Candida, called Candida albicans. The remaining twenty percent of yeast infections are caused by other types of Candida. These infections may require treatment with special medications that are different from the usual treatment. While yeast infections are not usually considered sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), they can still be transmitted sexually — so we have also included them in the STD section. Try to avoid intercourse until you have completed treatment and the symptoms have subsided.

How Do I Know if I Have a Yeast Infection?

Self-diagnosis of a yeast infection may not be as obvious as one would think. A 1997 study at Temple University Medical School reported in the July issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that only 28 percent of female participants presenting with recurrent yeast infections had candidiasis. Eleven percent actually had a bacterial infection and that requires a different treatment.

Predisposing Factors to Yeast Infections

Yeast feeds on glucose, (the body’s form of sugar), so anything that increases your blood sugar or changes the hormonal balance that regulates blood sugar can help yeast to grow out of control.

These conditions include:

  • diabetes
  • pregnancy, especially in the third trimester
  • birth control pills
  • steroids (legal and illicit ones)
  • antibiotics
  • immunocompromised states, such as with HIV infection or with cancer treatment.

Antifungal Medications

Since yeast is a fungus, treatment involves an anti-fungal medication. Several vaginal creams are available over the counter. Sometimes an oral medication is prescribed by a health care provider if the condition is very severe or not responding to cream treatment.

Just treating the irritation and itching will not cure the infection. If you’re using an oral medication or a vaginal cream, you may also need a topical vaginal cream to soothe the discomfort until the infection has been properly treated. If you’re using vaginal creams or suppositories, don’t use a tampon. They can absorb the medication. Use pads or panty liners instead.

While nonprescription, over the counter medications for yeast infections are readily available, be sure that you do indeed have a yeast infection before using them. As described below, other vaginal infections can have symptoms similar to those associated with yeast infections.

The OTC (over-the-counter) products for vaginal yeast infections have one of four active ingredients: butoconazole nitrate (Femstat 3), clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin and others), miconazole (Monistat 7 and others), and tioconazole (Vagistat). These drugs are in the same anti-fungal family and work in similar ways to break down the cell wall of the Candida organism until it dissolves. They are available in generic form also and those work just as well.

If this is your first infection, be sure to have your health care provider check the discharge under a microscope to make an accurate diagnosis. Symptoms such as pain or burning with urination could indicate a urinary tract infection, which would require prescription antibiotics. If you have recurrent yeast infections, do not continue to self-medicate:

  • Get to your health care provider.
  • Get More Info on Herbal Treatments for Yeast Infections This really worked for me. ~ Amy, RN — Founder, Teen Health Secrets
  • Eliminate yeast infections and Candida with Candidate – the proven, effective and natural remedy!

Decrease Your Risk of Yeast Infections

First, make the environment less favorable for its growth. Here are some tips:

  • If you are diabetic, keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible.
  • Keep the genital area clean, cool, and dry.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing — jeans and pantyhose, that retains heat and traps moisture.
  • Wear cotton panties to allow for better air circulation.
  • Dry off well after a shower or swimming.
  • Change as soon as possible out of wet clothes, especially bathing suits.
  • After urinating, wipe from front to back: yeast can exist in the intestinal tract and be swept into the vagina, along with E. coli and other bacteria, when wiping from back to front.
  • Avoid douching and using other irritants such as perfumed bath products and colored or scented toilet paper.
  • For more on your vagina… go there
  • Check outYeast Infections – When Should You Treat Yourself and Recurrent Yeast Infections.
  • Also see GYN Health and Sex Stuff.

Yes, some men get yeast infections too, go there to check that out.

Amy - Teen's Health Expert

By Amy - Teen's Health Expert

Discover the dedicated author behind Teen Health Secrets, an experienced expert committed to providing in-depth knowledge and guidance on various aspects of teen health, ensuring young individuals lead healthy, informed lives.