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Navigate: FAQ Home Page > Female -- Vaginal Discharge/Infections > Yeast and periods
What is a vaginal yeast infection? A vaginal yeast infection is irritation of the vagina and the area around the vagina, called the vulva. It is caused by an overgrowth of the fungus or yeast Candida. Yeast normally live in the vagina in small numbers, but when the bacteria in the vagina become out of balance, too many yeast grow and cause an infection.
Vaginal yeast infections are very common. About 75 percent of women have a yeast infection during their lives. And almost half of women have two or more yeast infections.
What are the signs of a vaginal yeast infection?
The most common symptom of a yeast infection is extreme itchiness in and around the vagina. Other symptoms include:
Burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina and the area around it
Pain when urinating
Pain or discomfort during sex
A thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese and does not have a bad smell
You may only have a few of these symptoms and they may be mild or severe.
Should I call my doctor if I think I have a yeast infection? Yes, you need to see your doctor to know for sure if you have a yeast infection, especially if you've never had one before. The signs of a yeast infection are similar to those of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like Chlamydia and gonorrhea. So, it's hard to be sure you have a yeast infection and not something more serious.
If you've had vaginal yeast infections in the past, talk to your doctor about using over-the-counter medicines.
How is a vaginal yeast infection diagnosed? Your doctor will do a pelvic exam to look for swelling and discharge. She may also use a swab to take a sample from the vagina. A quick look under the microscope or a lab test will show if yeast is causing the problem.
Why did I get a yeast infection?
Many things can change the acidity of the vagina and boost your chances of a vaginal yeast infection. These include:
lack of sleep
poor diet, or extreme intake of sugary foods
having your period
taking birth control pills
taking steroid medicines
diseases such as poorly-controlled
diabetes and HIV infection
How can I avoid getting another yeast infection?
To help prevent vaginal yeast infections, try the following:
Don't use douches.
Avoid scented hygiene products like bubble bath, sprays, pads and tampons.
Change tampons and pads often during your period.
Don't wear tight underwear or clothes made of synthetic fibers.
Wear cotton underwear and pantyhose with a cotton crotch.
Change out of wet swimsuits and exercise clothes as soon as possible. If you have repeat yeast infections, talk to your doctor.
Barbara Boyer , D.O.