A vaginal yeast infection, also called candida vaginitis or vulvovaginal candidiasis, is a vaginal infection resulting from the overgrowth of yeast (a type of fungus).
Yeast infections are most commonly caused by the fungus Candida albicans, but are also infrequently caused by other Candida species, including C. glabrata, C. parapsilosis, C. tropicalis, and C. krusei.
Up to 75 percent of women will get a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lives, and 40 to 50 percent of women will experience more than one infection, according to a 2007 article in the medical journal The Lancet. What's more, 5 to 8 percent of women suffer from recurrent or chronic vulvovaginal candidiasis, wherein they come down with four or more yeast infections in a single year.
Though the term "yeast infection" is most often used to refer to a vaginal infection, it also applies to other types of candidiasis. A yeast infection of the mouth is called thrush, or oropharyngeal candidiasis. A yeast infection of the skin which typically occurs in warm, moist areas, such as the armpits and groin is called cutaneous candidiasis.
And if Candida gets into the bloodstream, such as from using a contaminated intravenous catheter, the yeast can cause a deadly infection called invasive candidiasis.
If you have a vaginal yeast infection, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Men, particularly those who are uncircumcised, can get a form of penile yeast infection called candidal balanitis. These infections usually spring up in men who have unprotected sex with a woman who has a yeast infection, though it's not considered a sexually transmitted disease because it can also develop in the absence of sexual activity.
Symptoms of a yeast infection in men most often include a red rash on the penis and an itching or burning sensation on the tip of the penis.
Candida albicans and other Candida species are a normal part of the microbiome the community of microorganisms that live inside our bodies and on our skin.Candida fungi only cause an infection when something throws off the balance between the various members of your microbiome, causing Candida numbers to increase, such as:
Additionally, certain lifestyle habits may also promote the growth of Candida, including:
Yeast infections are a common occurrence during pregnancy, when "the micro environment of the vagina changes to some extent in response to the estrogen levels," explains Gregory R. Moore, MD, MPH, an obstetrician-gynecologist and director of the University Health Service at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
Yeast likes warm, moist, airless environments. Being pregnant and wearing support hose or constrictive clothing can make the vaginal environment all the more warm, moist, and dark, encouraging yeast to grow, Dr. Moore says.
If you experience unusual vaginal discharge during pregnancy, you should see your doctor to exclude bacterial vaginosis or sexually transmitted infections rather than assume it is a yeast infection. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis will not respond to treatments for vaginitis and can cause complications during the pregnancy.
The safest treatments for yeast infections during pregnancy are suppositories and vaginal creams. Pregnant women and women who are nursing should not take an oral prescription medication for yeast infections like Diflucan (fluconazole), as they have not been proven safe.
"There has not been adequate human-pregnancy data to make a decision one way or another on the effect of oral anti-fungal medications on the fetus," Dr. Moore says.
While yeast infections generally don't put a pregnancy at risk, they can be very uncomfortable. If you think you have a vaginal yeast infection during pregnancy, it should be diagnosed and treated by a doctor.
Additional reporting by Beth W. Orenstein.
Its a feeling that many women recognize right away: the vaginal itching and burning that accompanies a vaginal infection likely caused by yeast.
Yeast infections are a very common form of vaginal infection, but even if youve had one before, how can you really be sure that you're experiencing yeast infection symptoms rather than symptoms of another type of vaginal infection altogether?
Not all women exhibit noticeable symptoms when they have a yeast infection, especially if the infection is mild. However, typical yeast infection symptoms include:
Most vaginal yeast infections do not produce a strong vaginal odor; a fishy odor is more common with bacterial infections.
As straightforward as it might seem, most doctors will discourage you from diagnosing and treating a yeast infection yourself. This is because vaginal infections caused by bacteria, as well as some sexually transmitted infections, may have symptoms very similar to those caused by yeast, but they require different treatments.
Since yeast infection treatments have become available over the counter, many women simply opt to visit the closest drugstore and buy an anti-fungal cream. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost two thirds of these products are being bought and used by women who think they have a vaginal yeast infection but actually dont.
This misdiagnosis of vaginal infections is an important issue. Just as some bacteria are becoming resistant to certain antibiotics, yeast that normally lives in the vagina can become resistant to anti-fungal medications. If this happens, it can become very difficult to treat a yeast infection when one actually does develop.
Because of this, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that, for a first episode of a possible yeast infection, women see a physician to get a proper diagnosis. If a woman has had a physician-diagnosed yeast infection in the past and feels certain that her current symptoms are caused by a yeast infection, its reasonable to ask her doctor about self-treatment with an over-the-counter medication. However, if symptoms dont improve or they come back again, an office visit is warranted.
At your doctors office, youll be asked about your symptoms and possibly about your overall health. A gynecological exam will be done so your doctor can check for redness, swelling, discharge, and odor.
"Vaginal yeast and bacterial infections are both common and difficult to diagnose based on symptoms," explained Rosanna Gray-Swain, MD, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist in St. Louis, Mo. "Both cause discharge and itching, plus or minus an odor. To determine the type of infection, the doctor takes a sample of discharge from the vagina and looks at it on a slide under a microscope to directly look for the yeast or bacteria. Rarely, a special culture needs to be sent to the lab."
Once the cause of your infection is accurately determined, youll be on your way to getting the right treatment and, more importantly, relief.
Three out of every four women will have at least one vaginal infection caused by yeast overgrowth at some point in their lives, and half of all women will have more than one. In other words, this type of vaginal infection is extremely common.
Yeast infections can occur in several places on the body. The most common areas are the mouth, where the infection is called thrush; on the feet, as athletes foot; and on the genitals. When a yeast infection develops in a womans vagina, it causes a type of vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina.
Yeast can also overgrow and cause infection in overweight people who have folds of skin that rub against each other, creating a dark and moist environment in those folds.
We normally have yeast all over our bodies, and it plays an important role as it lives side by side with bacteria.
When there is an imbalance in the normal flora [environment] of these areas, the yeast can grow heavier and cause what we know of as a symptomatic yeast infection, said Rosanna Gray-Swain, MD, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist in St. Louis, Mo. In the vagina, these symptoms usually include itching, discharge, redness, and burning.
Your body is normally very good at regulating itself, maintaining all the right chemical levels for good functioning. Sometimes though, problems will pop up that alter that chemistry, throwing certain bodily functions off-balance.
The inside of the vagina is quite acidic. This environment allows the right amount of yeast to live inside it without causing any problems. But when something happens to the environment and the acidity level drops, yeast is able to grow. This so-called yeast overgrowth causes a vaginal yeast infection.
A variety of factors may contribute to the development of a vaginal infection. For example, wearing tight underwear or underwear made from a synthetic fabric that doesnt let the area breathe encourages yeast overgrowth.
Using over-the-counter feminine hygiene products, such as douches, scented sprays, and even bubble bath, may cause the acidity level in the vagina to drop, resulting in a yeast infection.
Being overweight can also contribute to yeast infections, both in the vagina and in the folds of the genital area; so can eating a diet high in sugar.
Many women get their first yeast infection when they are pregnant or are on birth control pills. Some women get vaginal infections from yeast overgrowth when they have their periods. This may be because hormonal changes contribute to changes in the vaginas acid balance.
If you have diabetes, you may also find that you experience frequent yeast infections. This is especially likely to happen when your blood sugar is not well controlled. Illnesses that lower your immunity, like HIV/AIDS, can also lead to frequent yeast infections.
Some antibiotics are known to encourage yeast overgrowth by making the vaginal environment less acidic. This may be because they kill off normal genital bacteria, making it easier for yeast to thrive.
Steroids are another type of medication that can cause women to develop a vaginal infection from yeast. The higher the dose and the longer you use them, the greater the risk, but even low-strength topical steroid creams may make yeast infections more likely.
The good news about yeast infections is that they are usually quite treatable with over-the-counter medication. If you think you have a vaginal yeast infection, speak with your doctor to discuss your treatment options.
Candida albicans is a species of yeast a single-celled fungus that reproduces by budding that's a normal part of the microbes that live in your gastrointestinal tract.
Small amounts of the yeast also live in various warm, moist areas throughout the body, including the mouth, rectum, vagina, and parts of your skin. Its numbers are naturally kept in check by the bacteria and other microorganisms that make up your microbiome, the community of microorganisms that inhabit your body.
However, different factors can throw off your microbial balance, tipping the scales in favor of C. albicans and allowing the fungus to grow out of control and cause a yeast infection called candidiasis. These factors include:
Though it causes about 90 percent of yeast infections, Candida albicans is not the only species from the Candida genus that lives in the body. Other common species include C. glabrata, C. parapsilosis, C. tropicalis, and C. krusei.
Some studies estimate that about 20 percent of asymptomatic, healthy women have Candida living in their vaginas (though some estimates place that number much higher, at 80 percent), according to a 2007 report in the journal The Lancet. But C. albicans comprises 85 to 95 percent of the Candida yeast strains isolated from the vagina, the report notes. These fungi make their way into the vagina from the anus.
An overgrowth of C. albicans (or other Candida species) in the vagina leads to a vaginal yeast infection, which is also known as candida vaginitis or vulvovaginal candidiasis. Common symptoms include:
Vaginal yeast infections are typically treated with antifungal creams or suppositories purchased over-the-counter or through prescription. Most yeast infections resolve within a few days after treatment starts.
Candida albicans is a very common fungus found in the mouth of people of all ages. For instance, the fungus lives in the mouths of 30 to 45 percent of healthy adults, according to a 2002 report in the Postgraduate Medical Journal.
Despite this prevalence, an oral infection by C. albicans, which is called thrush or oral candidiasis, is not very common in the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Thrush mainly affects the very young, the old, and people with weakened immune systems (including people using steroids): It affects 5 to 7 percent of newborns, 9 to 31 percent of AIDS patients, and approximately 20 percent of cancer patients, the CDC notes.
Symptoms of thrush include:
If a mild thrush infection develops after antibiotic use, eating yogurt with active cultures or taking over-the-counter Lactobacillus acidophilus (a beneficial bacteria) pills may be all that's required, as these treatments help restore the normal balance of microbes in the mouth. More serious infections require antifungal medications, including special mouthwashes and lozenges.
Left untreated, a serious case of thrush can lead to a deadly C. albicans infection called invasive candidiasis. Intravenous catheters and other medical equipment contaminated with Candida species can also cause invasive candidiasis. In fact, the yeast causes up to 10 percent of all bloodstream infections acquired in the hospital, according to a 2007 report in the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews.
Symptoms of invasive candidiasis can include fever and chills, but are not specific and depend on which organs the infection spreads to in the body. Treatment requires several weeks of oral or intravenous antifungal medication.
Antibiotics, by definition, are supposed to kill bacteria; in many situations, such as when you have a bacterial infection, thats a good thing.
But those antibiotics, while doing their job on one part of your body, can cause problems elsewhere: They could be destroying good bacteria in your vagina bacteria that help to keep the body's natural yeast population in check.
When the good bacteria are destroyed, yeast can multiply and potentially cause a yeast infection.
Normally, the vagina, digestive tract, and other parts of the body harbor several species of good bacteria that help control the population of other microorganisms and contribute to important bodily functions such as digestion.
A vaginal yeast infection results when the balance between the good bacteria and other organisms is upset, allowing the yeast to overgrow. When that happens, youll experience the well-known symptoms of a yeast infection: thick white discharge, burning, and itching.
A yeast infection is the second most-common type of vaginal infection women experience, after bacterial vaginosis. About 75 percent of women will develop at least one yeast infection during their lives, and nearly half of all women will experience two or more.
The medical name for these infections is candidiasis because they are usually associated with a form of yeast called Candida albicans.
Many women find that they develop a yeast infection after taking antibiotics for a few days.
Any antibiotic can change the bacterial balance in the body, but some are notorious, including clindamycin (Cleocin) and tetracycline (Sumycin), says Orli Etingin, MD, professor of clinical medicine and director of the Iris Cantor Womens Health Center at NewYorkPresbyterian Hospital in New York City.
Any woman may be at risk for a yeast infection if she takes an antibiotic for more than four or five days, Dr. Etingin says.
Of course, there are times when antibiotics are essential. If you get pneumonia, and your doctor prescribes 10 days to two weeks of antibiotics, you really have no choice, Dr. Etingin says.
So what can you do if you dont want to trade that pneumonia for a yeast infection?
Dr. Etingin suggests taking some proactive measures, such as using an over-the-counter yeast treatment cream or tablet to fight off yeast overgrowth if youre going to be on the antibiotic for five days or more. Not all doctors will recommend this approach, so you should discuss it with your own doctor before doing so.
Dr. Etingin also recommends using probiotics to replace the good bacteria that the antibiotic will eliminate. Probiotics are bacteria similar to the normal bacteria that live in and on the body.
The best sources of probiotics are organic yogurt with live bacterial cultures and supplements that contain good bacteria look for the words lactobacillus or acidophilus on the label.
These products can help restore the bodys normal balance of good bacteria to yeast. However, the amount of probiotics that yogurt and supplements contain can vary widely, so inspect the labels carefully before you buy.
Above all, never use antibiotics if you dont absolutely need them.
Dr. Etingin warns, If you have a simple cold or upper respiratory tract infection, theres no reason to take antibiotics because these conditions are caused by viruses that will not respond to [antibiotics]. Antibiotic overuse is a big cause of yeast infections.
A yeast infection, or vulvovaginal candidiasis, is an infection of the vagina caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida, particularly the species Candida albicans.
Three out of four women will get a yeast infection at least once in their lives, and up to half of all women will experience more than one infection, according to a 2007 article in the medical journal The Lancet.
Though alarming, these figures aren't too surprising when you consider all of the things that can lead to a yeast infection, including:
If you have a yeast infection, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Effective over-the-counter (OTC) medications for yeast infections exist, but they don't work if you have another kind of vaginal infection.
In a 2002 study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, only a third of the women who bought OTC vaginal antifungal medications after self-diagnosing actually had a yeast infection.
The other women had other health issues, such as bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, or a yeast infection along with a secondary infection untreatable with the antifungal products. What's more, about 14 percent of the women didn't have any kind of vaginal infection at all.
Yeast infections are not life threatening unless you have a severely weakened immune system, so you could wait a few days to see if your infection will get better on its own, or you could try OTC medication for yeast infections. But it's best to see your doctor, especially if this is your first (possible) yeast infection, or your infection isn't getting better (with or without medications).
Your doctor will begin by getting information about your medical history, including whether or not you had a yeast infection before and if you have ever had a sexually transmitted disease.
Next, your doctor will perform a pelvic exam, which will include inspecting your vagina and vulva to see if there are external signs of infection, such as swelling and redness, and cracks in the skin of the vulva. Your doctor will also examine your cervix for swelling and redness, and your vaginal walls for dry, white spots.
However, because some of these physical symptoms are common in other genital infections, other tests may be necessary.
To get a concrete diagnosis, your doctor will likely take a sample of your vaginal secretions and examine it under a microscope. The two common tests for yeast infections are the vaginal wet mount and the KOH test.
For the vaginal wet mount, your doctor will mix a sample of your vaginal discharge with a salt solution, put it onto a glass slide, and look at it under a microscope. If there are an abnormally large number of Candida microbes and white blood cells (which indicate your body is fighting an infection), you have a yeast infection. The wet mount can help also rule out other infections, including bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis.
Instead of using a salt solution, the KOH test uses potassium hydroxide. This solution kills bacteria and vaginal cells, leaving only the fungi that may be present in your vagina.
If, after diagnosis, your infection doesnt get better with treatment or comes backs back several more times within a year (a condition called recurrent yeast infection or chronic vulvovaginal candidiasis), your doctor may order a culture test of your yeast.
A culture test will help determine if a Candida species other than C. albicans is causing your recurring infection some yeast species are resistant to the drugs used to treat a C. albicans infection.
Candida albicans is a fungus typically found in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as in warm, moist places of the body, including the mouth, rectum, and vagina.
The fungi are normally kept in check by other microbes of the body, but can sometimes become overgrown and cause a vaginal yeast infection, also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis.
If you have a yeast infection, your vaginal area will likely become itchy, red, and swollen. You may also feel pain during urination and sex, and have unusual vaginal discharge, which may be thick and chunky.
Though it's an unpleasant experience, yeast infections are rarely, if ever, serious, even if you have an extremely compromised immune system, such as from HIV/AIDS. What's more, yeast infections are generally very easy to treat.
There are numerous drugs that can be used to treat vaginal yeast infections. They can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC) or through prescription, and take the form of an antifungal cream, ointment, tablet, suppository, or medicated tampon.
These yeast infection medications are all a part of the class of antifungal drugs called azoles, and include miconazole (Monistat), clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin), and tioconazole (Vagistat).
Interestingly, though the antifungal medications treat yeast infections, they may cause vaginal itching and burning, or temporarily worsen those symptoms if you already had them from your infection.
With treatment, your yeast infection will pass after 1 to 7 days (the length of treatment depends on which product you are using). If a week is too long for you, you can also try a single dose of a powerful azole oral medication, fluconazole (Diflucan), which is available OTC or by prescription.
Your treatment will be different if have a so-called complicated yeast infection. You may have such an ailment if you are pregnant or you have:
In these cases, your doctor may put you on a long-course vaginal therapy of an azole medication for seven to 14 days, or a two-to-three dose course of an oral azole. To prevent recurrent yeast infections, your doctor may also set up a maintenance plan, which could involve treatment with oral azole tablets for up to six months.
You doctor will prescribe other, non-azole antifungal medications if you have an infection caused by a non-albicans Candida species, such as C. glabrata, which may be resistant to azoles.
Despite the effectiveness of prescription and OTC treatments, some people may choose to try the natural remedies touted as vaginal yeast infection cures, including:
However, not all home remedies are backed up by clinical trials. Boric acid suppositories, at the very least, might be effective against yeast infections, including those caused by non-albicans Candida species.
Yogurt and supplements containing Lactobacillus "good" bacteria common in the vagina and elsewhere are thought to help treat and prevent yeast infections. But evidence for the bacteria's helpfulness is inconsistent. The same is true for capsules of garlic, which is a natural fungicide.
And though some research suggests tea tree oil is effective against Candida in animal models and laboratory tests, human trials are lacking.
Yeast infections are a very common condition, affecting about a third of all women.
Additionally, up to half of all women will experience more than one yeast infection in their lives, and five to eight percent of women will have four or more infections each year (a condition called recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis).
Fortunately, yeast infections are generally easy to treat with over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medication.
The standard treatment for yeast infections involves a short course of vaginal therapy using a class of antifungal drugs called azoles. These medications include:
OTC medications which come in many forms, such as antifungal creams, suppositories, and medicated tampons contain the same ingredients as prescribed drugs, but in less-concentrated doses.
Prescribed medications may also come with additional prescription drugs to help treat your symptoms, such as steroids to relieve inflammation of the opening of the vagina.
Vaginal creams are usually packaged with applicators that also help you measure the correct dose you need. Right before bedtime, insert the applicator into your vagina and push the plunger to administer the medication. Suppositories and medicated tampons have similar application processes, though the tampons need to be removed in the morning.
Treatment with azoles for a moderate infection lasts one to seven days, depending on the drug and its concentration. Typically, the medication will have a number next to its name to indicate how long you must use it Monistat 3, for instance, must be used three nights in row. Infections with severe symptoms may require up to two weeks of treatment, as directed by your doctor.
Unless you have an allergic reaction to the medication, side effects are generally mild. They include an initial increase in vaginal burning, itching, and irritation after application, as well as headache and abdominal cramping.
You should not use tampons while using the suppositories and creams. Condoms and diaphragms should also be avoided because the medications contain oil, which can degrade the contraceptives. Though it's not harmful you to have sex during treatment, the medications might irritate your partner's genitals.
In addition to vaginal therapy, oral medications for yeast infections are also available OTC or by prescription. The pills contain a powerful azole called fluconazole (Diflucan), which can clear up a moderate yeast infection in a single dose.
If you have a severe yeast infection, you may need two to three doses of fluconazole. And if you have recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis, your doctor may prescribe a "maintenance regimen" involving weekly fluconazole doses for up to six months.
Unlike vaginally administered azoles, fluconazole has a number of potential side effects, including:
More rarely, severe side effects may develop, such as flu-like symptoms, swelling, and seizures. The drug is not recommended for pregnant women.
Yeast infections arise when fungi of the Candida genus, particularly the species Candida albicans, become overgrown in the vagina, causing irritation and inflammation.
Though azoles work well against C. albicans, some other Candida species are resistant to those first-line drugs. For example, about half of C. glabrata strains isolated from recurrent yeast infections are far less susceptible to fluconazole than C. albicans, and C. krusei is completely resistant to it, according to a 2009 report in the journal Trends in Urology Gynaecology & Sexual Health.
To treat non-albicans yeast infections, your doctor may prescribe a nystatin (Mycostatin) vaginal cream or tablet, which you must apply daily for 14 days. Side effects include itching, burning, and irritation.
A vaginal gel composed of the antifungals amphotericin B and flucytosine is also effective against non-albicans Candida species, according to a 2010 article in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Yeast infections (vulvovaginal candidiasis) are the most common type of vaginal infection after bacterial vaginosis, according to a 2007 report in the medical journal The Lancet.
Vaginal yeast infections are the result of an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans, and less frequently other Candida species, particularly C. glabrata. Treating yeast infections typically requires killing the fungi with antifungal medications called azoles, which can be purchased by prescription or over-the-counter (OTC).
Azoles are very effective against C. albicans, but far less so against other Candida species these yeasts are often treated with other antifungal medications.
Despite the effectiveness of prescription and OTC medications for yeast infections, some people prefer to treat their ailments with natural remedies. For yeast infections, purported alternative cures include:
Though positive anecdotal reports can be found on the Internet, most natural remedies for yeast infections are not (yet) supported by rigorous clinical studies.
The vagina is home to numerous beneficial microbes, which keep pathogenic (disease-causing) microbes, including Candida, in check. The yeasts grow out of control when something such as antibiotics or hormones disrupts that delicate microbial balance.
Because of this fact, one of the most common natural remedies for yeast infections has long involved restoring the vagina's population of friendly bacteria, especially Lactobacillus acidophilus, by using yogurt or probiotic pills or suppositories.
Overall, the evidence for consuming healthy bacteria to treat or prevent yeast infections is inconsistent at best.
A 2003 report found that studies suggest Lactobacillus recolonization of the vagina shows promise as a treatment for yeast infections. But a 2006 review in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy found that most clinical trials on the subject had methodological issues, making it difficult to draw reliable conclusions.
Another review, published in 2009 in the Journal of Chemotherapy, found that Lactobacillus strains can help treat bacterial vaginosis, but the bacteria have no clear benefit for yeast infections.
Either way, regular ingestion of beneficial bacteria poses very little harm, so you can try the remedies without worry (though it may be a waste of money).
What may be ill advised, however, is putting yogurt directly into the vagina. This remedy has not been scientifically tested much (though many swear by it), and may lead to treatment-resistant infections.
Research shows that boric acid suppository capsules appear to be very effective against yeast infections, particularly those caused by non-albicans species. An early study found that boric acid suppositories, when taken nightly for 7 to 10 days, have up to a 92 percent cure rate.
More recently, a 2007 article in the journal Diabetes Care found that boric acid vaginal suppositories were more effective against C. glabrata infections in diabetic women (diabetes is a risk factor for yeast infections) than an oral azole medication. And a 2011 review in the Journal of Women's Health found that it's a safe alternative to azole medications for the treatment of recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (four or more infections in a single year) caused by non-albicans Candida.
However, boric acid can occasionally cause vaginal burning, is toxic when swallowed, and shouldn't be used frequently or when pregnant.
Garlic and tea tree oil are also popular natural remedies for yeast infections.
Numerous studies have shown that garlic has antifungal properties. But when taken orally, garlic has no effect on vaginal Candida counts, according to a 2013 study in the journal BJOG. Some women promote placing garlic cloves in the vagina at night while this treatment is unlikely to cause any major damage, there's no scientific evidence to show it works.
To fight yeast infections, some women suggest applying diluted tea tree oil to the vagina using an applicator-type tampon. While the oils are effective against various Candida species in both laboratory and rat studies, clinical (human) trials are lacking.
Douching and yeast infections don't mix. The cleansing may actually help promote yeast infections by removing healthy bacteria from the vagina, and if you already have an infection, douching may spread it to the cervix and into the uterus. Douching with vinegar may be doubly bad because of the potential damage the liquid can cause to the vaginal walls.
You can find numerous other natural remedies for yeast infections online, including coconut oil, pomegranate gel, and echinacea purpurea liquid. But before trying any alternative treatments, it's best to check with your doctor.
For most women, yeast infection symptoms are just plain annoying a vaginal yeast infection is rarely dangerous. Still, you can take steps to prevent yeast infections. The following tips will help you to do just that.
Personal care and hygiene can go a long way when it comes to preventing vaginal yeast infections. Be sure to:
Wash well: Keeping the vagina clean will not only keep you smelling fresh, it can also help prevent yeast infections. When bathing, be sure to clean the inside folds of the vagina where yeast is likely to grow, says Samantha Dunham, MD, a gynecologist at the NYU Langone Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine in New York City.
Dry thoroughly: Because yeast thrives in moist environments, its important to dry the entire vaginal area after taking a shower or bath. You may even want to use a blow dryer on a low, cool setting to get rid of excess moisture, says Dr. Dunham.
The way you dress can affect your risk of developing a vaginal yeast infection. To prevent such infections, keep these tips in mind:
Go natural: Cotton and silk underwear absorb moisture, keeping you dry. On the other hand, nylon and other synthetic fabrics hold moisture close to your skin, encouraging the growth of yeast.
Change your clothes: Dont sit around in sweaty gym clothes or a wet bathing suit. Change into dry clothes as soon as possible. Also, change your underwear often to prevent dampness.
Avoid pantyhose: Pantyhose, tights, and leggings can cause heat and moisture to build up in the crotch area. If you do wear pantyhose, be sure to wear cotton panties underneath, and choose pantyhose with a cotton crotch.
Pass on pajamas: Avoid snug-fitting pajamas a loose, flowing nightgown is preferable. And going without underwear while you sleep will help keep your genital area dry and discourage yeast growth.
Some cosmetic products can encourage the production of yeast. You can stay well by:
Avoiding scented soaps, bubble baths, and feminine sprays: Perfumes can be irritating to the sensitive area inside the vagina, and that can increase your risk of getting a yeast infection. Also avoid scented sanitary pads and tampons and colored or printed toilet paper dyes can also be irritating. A good rule of thumb is to avoid using anything around the vagina that is scented or dyed or has print on it, says Dunham.
Limiting the heat: Yeast organisms love warm (and moist) environments. Its best to avoid taking long hot baths or soaking in a hot tub. Also dont wear tight clothing that will prevent air from circulating around the crotch area, especially in the summer.
Douching and Yeast: Douching [washing out the inside of the vagina with liquid] destroys not only harmful bacteria, but also the helpful kind that keep yeast under control, says Dunham. Douche products also wash away the natural protective lining of the vagina, leaving you more susceptible to yeast and other vaginal infections.
Watch the meds you take: Antibiotics kill not only bad bacteria, but also good bacteria that can prevent an overgrowth of yeast. Recent antibiotic use, like for a bladder infection, is one of the most common risk factors for getting a yeast infection, says Dunham. Taking oral steroids and birth control pills may also increase your risk. If you have frequent yeast infections, talk to your doctor about the medications you take. There may be alternatives available.
As with most illnesses and infections, taking care of your body overall can help you stay healthy. Be sure to:
Get enough sleep: Usually your immune system helps keep yeast under control. But if you get run down from skimping on sleep, your immune system may not be able to do its job. Try keeping a regular sleep schedule and avoiding exercise, caffeine, and heavy meals within three hours of bedtime. Immune-depressing diseases such as diabetes and HIV can also increase the risk of yeast infections. Additionally, if you have diabetes, it's important to keep your blood sugar levels under control to prevent yeast infections.
Change your diet: Some studies suggest that eating yogurt with active cultures may help the body combat an overgrowth of yeast. Dunham also recommends limiting your intake of sugar. Theres some evidence that sugar may help promote the growth of yeast.
Most women know that vaginal itching may signal a yeast infection, which can cause a host of other annoying symptoms, including a thick white discharge and a burning sensation while urinating.
Yeast is actually a type of fungus. The most common type of yeast found in the vagina and elsewhere on the body is called Candida albicans, usually referred to simply as Candida.
Normally, Candida exists in balance with the other microorganisms in and on the body and causes no problems. But some conditions promote Candida overgrowth, leading to yeast infections and vaginal itching.
Like other yeasts, Candida thrives in warm, moist environments, especially when plenty of sugar is available. For example, people with diabetes have a higher-than-average risk of experiencing Candida overgrowth in their armpits, groin, and sometimes even under the breasts, says Orli Etingin, MD, professor of clinical medicine and director of the Iris Cantor Womens Health Center at NewYork Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
Its thought that these patients have high levels of sugar in their skin and in their sweat and other bodily secretions, which allows the yeast to thrive, Dr. Etingin explains.
Yeasts affinity for sweets has prompted some people to suggest that diet may be a risk factor for some women when it comes to developing yeast infections. In fact, some people follow a so-called "yeast infection diet" or Candida diet on the theory that eliminating certain foods may eliminate or at least greatly reduce the risk of yeast overgrowth. Proponents of these regimens claim that a yeast infection diet can help to cure or prevent yeast infections by eliminating:
However, the evidence in support of this approach is scarce, Etingin warns. This is not a widely useful diet. If you happen to have frequent yeast infections, it may be helpful to try for a few weeks or a month, but generally it is not applicable.
Theres better evidence that probiotics may be the secret behind a diet to prevent yeast infections. Probiotics are living microorganisms similar to the good bacteria that live in and on the body, and they may help to lower the risk of a yeast infection, says Etingin.
Normally, certain bacteria live in the digestive tract, on the skin, and elsewhere on the body, where they help with digestion and other bodily functions. Antibiotics that you might be taking for an illness can kill off those good bacteria, clearing the way for other organisms, including yeast, to proliferate and cause vaginal itching and other symptoms of a yeast infection.
A good way to help restore the bodys normal bacterial balance is through the consumption of probiotics. According to Etingin, the best sources of probiotics are:
The amount of probiotics in any of these products can vary widely, so she recommends reading labels carefully before you buy. Etingin also recommends that you use antibiotics judiciously, and only as instructed by your doctor.
Keeping in mind that in addition to sugar, yeast loves moisture and warmth, so Etingin also recommends these tried-and-true methods of avoiding yeast infections, which are generally far more effective than changing your diet:
Etingin points out that there are many different kinds of yeast and yeast infections: A woman whos had two or three yeast infections within a year should be cultured [have a sample from the vagina tested in a lab] to see what kind it is, so it can be treated appropriately.
Candida is a type of yeast fungus that lives in small numbers in the gastrointestinal tract, and sometimes in other warm, moist places of the body, including the vagina.
If the population of yeast in the vagina increases greatly, a yeast infection known medically as vulvovaginal candidiasis can develop.
Up to 75 percent of women will get a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lives, and up to 50 percent of women will experience more than one infection over the years.
For some women, yeast infections are a common occurrence. If you come down with frequent yeast infections (four or more in a single year), you probably have a condition known as recurrent or chronic vulvovaginal candidiasis.
While it's not entirely clear what causes some women to get recurring yeast infections, there are a number of risk factors that can predispose you to it, according to a 2006 article in the journal Clinical Microbiology Newsletter. These include:
Additionally, a 2009 report in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology found that a localized immune defect in the vagina might be behind many women's recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis. In some cases, this may be the result of an allergic reaction to Candida after the initial yeast infection.
Recurring yeast infections may also be the result of an intestinal or vaginal reservoir of Candida, or transmission from sexual partners.
Treatment of a normal yeast infection involves a class of antifungal medications called azoles. These medications can be purchased over-the-counter or by prescription (prescription azoles have a higher concentration), and come in various forms, including vaginal creams, suppositories, and medicated tampons. The medications include:
The vaginal therapy lasts one to seven days, depending on the product. A single dose of an oral azole called Diflucan (fluconazole) is also available.
These treatments are effective if your recurring yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans (the species most commonly behind yeast infections).
But some infections are caused by other Candida species, such as C. glabrata, which may require treatment with a Mycostatin (nystatin) vaginal cream or tablet, a vaginal gel containing the antifungals amphotericin B and flucytosine, or another treatment.
One reason that yeast infections return is that they love the warm, moist condition of the vagina. This means that if you wear:
Also remember to:
If you continue to experience repeated yeast infections after making these changes, ask your doctor to rule out any possible underlying causes. That way you'll know youre getting the appropriate treatment.
Additional reporting by Beth W. Orenstein.
Yeast infections are usually associated with women, but men aren't safe from the genital inflammation either.
The term "yeast infection" generally refers to a vaginal infection caused by the yeast Candida, though yeast infections, or candidiasis, can affect other areas of the body. A yeast infection of the mouth is called oral thrush, or oral candidiasis, and a yeast infection of the skin (such as the armpits) is called cutaneous candidiasis.
A yeast infection of the penis is called candidal (or candida) balanitis, or balanitis thrush. The term "balanitis" refers to an infection of the glans penis, which is the head of the penis. If the yeast infection also affects the foreskin, it is known as candidal balanoposthitis.
Candida yeasts are responsible for 30 to 35 percent of all cases of balanitis, according to a 2010 report in the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews. However, candida balanitis is not well studied, so it's unclear how many men the illness affects each year (though it's thought to be a rare condition).
Various Candida species, most notably Candida albicans, live in the gastrointestinal tract and other warm, areas of the body without causing illness (they only cause issues when they're present in large numbers).
In fact, about 20 percent of women have Candida living in their vagina and don't experience any yeast infection symptoms, according to a 2007 report in the journal The Lancet. Similarly, Candida colonize the genitals of 14 to 18 percent of men who don't have any balanitis symptoms, the 2010 report notes.
Unlike with vaginal yeast infections, penile yeast infections are usually sexually acquired e.g., when a man has sex with a woman who has a yeast infection. But candidal balanitis isn't considered a sexually transmitted disease because men can get the infection without having sex.
There are several risk factors that increase a man's risk of getting a penile yeast infection, including:
Hygiene may also play a role in candidal balanitis development. Washing with perfumed shower gels and soaps can irritate the skin, potentially helping Candida multiply. And not completely drying the genitals after showering or swimming provides the yeast with the warm, moist environment they need to grow.
Common symptoms of candidal balanitis include:
If you have candidal balanoposthitis, you may also have:
Like vaginal yeast infections, penile yeast infections are easily treated with antifungal medications called azoles. There are a number of over-the-counter and prescription-based topical medications available, including:
Alternatively, an oral azole medication called fluconazole (Diflucan) is effective for yeast infections. If the topical or oral treatments don't work, make sure to see your doctor, as you may have another kind of balanitis or an infection by a Candida species resistant to azole antifungals.
Yeast infections, known medically as candidiasis, are infections caused by the fungus Candida. Many different types of Candida can cause candidiasis, but the most common perpetrator is Candida albicans.
These fungi normally live in small amounts in the gastrointestinal tract and warm, moist areas of the body, including the mouth and vagina they only cause issues when their numbers grow out of control.
Candidiasis caused by C. albicans is generally easy to treat with a class of antifungal medications called azoles, used topically for one to seven days or taken orally for one dose; infections caused by other Candida species are bit more difficult to get rid of and require other medications.
Some types of candidiasis, however, can lead to serious health problems if left untreated.