Think you might have a vaginal yeast infection? Want to find out what the symptoms are and how to prevent them?

We asked the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. National Library of Medicine for some of our answers

We know: All about Vaginal Yeast Infections

What is a vaginal yeast infection?

Vaginal yeast infections are caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. Yeast are tiny organisms that normally live in small numbers on the skin and also inside the vagina. The acidic environment inside the vagina helps to prevent yeast from growing. However, if the acidic levels change in the vagina and it becomes less acidic than too many yeast grow. This causes a vaginal infection.

What changes the acid balance in the vagina?

The acidic balance of the vagina can change as a result of many factors:

  • Having your period (menstruation)
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Some antibiotics
  • Birth control pills
  • Steroids
  • Moisture and irritation of the vagina

How do I know if I have a vaginal yeast infection?

3 out of 4 women have a yeast infection at some point during their life. Some yeast infection symptoms include:

  • A white vaginal discharge that may look like cottage cheese
  • Itching or burning in the vagina and sometimes around the vulva (the skin that surrounds the vagina)
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Swelling of the vulva

What treatment is available for vaginal yeast infections?

Vaginal yeast infections are usually treated with a medication that you put directly into your vagina. Medicines typically come either as a cream that you insert with a special applicator or as a suppository that you put into your vagina and let dissolve. Medicine in a pill form taken orally is also available.

Eating yogurt and drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements has been known to help yeast infection sufferers. Though there are few studies done on their effectiveness. Eating yogurt helps to restore the natural bacteria in your body while cranberry juice helps to restore the natural acidic levels in your body.

When should I see my doctor?

It is very important to see your doctor the first time you think you have a yeast infection. The symptoms of a yeast infection are also the symptoms of other infections such as some STDs. Taking treatment for a yeast infection when you don't have one could make any infection you have worse.

How can I prevent vaginal yeast infections in the future?

In order to prevent a yeast infection:

  • Don't wear tight fitting clothing or synthetic fiber clothes.
  • Wear cotton underwear.
  • Don't wear tights, pantyhose, spandex or leotards everyday.
  • Use a blow dryer on a low cool setting to help dry your genital area after you bathe or shower and before getting dressed.
  • Wipe from front to back after using the toilet. This can help to prevent bacteria from the rectum moving up into your vagina.
  • Change out of wet swimsuits or other damp clothing as soon as possible.
  • Don't douche or use feminine hygiene sprays, deodorant tampons or sanitary pads and avoid using colored perfume paper.

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