Yeast Infection

Yeast infection occurs when the pH balance of the vagina encourages an overgrowth of yeast organisms that are naturally present.
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What Is Yeast Infection?

There is normally a small amount of yeast (Candida albicans) present in the vagina. A yeast infection occurs when there is an overabundance of yeast, often caused by a change in the pH balance of the vagina. Here are some of the factors that may increase susceptibility to yeast infections:

  • Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Use of antibiotics (protective bacteria are destroyed by antibiotics allowing yeast overgrowth)
  • Use of hormonal contraceptives
  • Diabetes

How Is It Spread?

Yeast infections are not usually sexually transmitted.

What Are the Symptoms?

  • Increased amount of discharge
  • White, clumpy (cottage cheese-like) discharge
  • Redness, itching, or burning in vaginal/vulvar area

How Is It Treated?

The goal of treatment is to reduce the overgrowth of yeast organisms and return the vagina to a healthy balance. Anti-fungal medications are available in creams, suppositories, and tablet form and do not require prescriptions. These medications must be used inside the vagina to be effective. Anti-fungal creams can also be applied to the external tissue to lessen irritation and itching. Vaginal-yeast medications can be found in pharmacies and most grocery stores. Partners do not require treatment unless symptoms are present. Male symptoms may include redness, flaking skin, and itching in the genital area. Treatment usually consists of anti-fungal cream applied twice daily to the affected area.

While treating yeast infections, avoid intercourse, and do not scratch irritated skin. This may cause increased symptoms and pain. Always follow the instructions included in the package, and complete the entire course of medication, even if symptoms resolve before the medication is gone. If the menstrual period starts while using vaginal medication, continue to use the medication inside the vagina as instructed, but avoid tampon use at this time. Remember also that most yeast-infection medications are oil-based products that may cause condoms to break more easily.


  • Use condoms when having sexual contact or intercourse.
  • Wear cotton undergarments.
  • Avoid tight-fitting and synthetic fabrics. Avoid prolonged wearing of pantyhose.
  • Avoid daily use of panty liners, pads, or tampons. Do not use scented products.
  • Use water-based lubricants; avoid all oil-based products (i.e. vaseline or baby oil).
  • Avoid using douches or other feminine-hygiene products, unless specifically advised by a health-care provider.
  • Drink eight glasses of water daily.
  • When cleansing after urination or bowel movements, wipe from front to back.
  • Stay healthy by eating well and getting a good night's rest on a regular basis.

From the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.



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