First Time User? Enroll now.
COVID-19: Vaccine information and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers
Home > Health Library > Vaginal Yeast Infections
Yeast is a fungus that normally lives in the vagina in small numbers. A vaginal yeast infection means that too many yeast cells are growing in the vagina. These infections are very common. They may bother you a lot, but they usually aren't serious. A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
A healthy vagina has many bacteria and a few yeast cells. When something changes the balance of these organisms, yeast can grow too much and cause symptoms. Taking antibiotics sometimes causes this imbalance. Other causes include certain health problems, like diabetes, and high estrogen levels from pregnancy or hormone therapy.
A yeast infection causes itching or soreness in the vagina. It sometimes causes pain or burning when you urinate or have sex. Some women also have a thick, clumpy, white discharge that has no odor and looks a little like cottage cheese.
It's easy to guess wrong about a vaginal infection. See your doctor if you aren't sure what you have, if this is the first time you have had symptoms, or if you're pregnant. Your doctor may be able to diagnose you based on your medical history and a vaginal exam.
If you're not pregnant and you know you have a yeast infection, you can treat yourself with over-the-counter antifungal medicine. If you're pregnant, don't use these medicines without talking to your doctor first. If you have more than four infections in a year, see your doctor for testing and treatment.
Practicing good genital hygiene can help prevent yeast infections. For example, keep your vaginal area clean. After using the toilet, wipe from front to back. Avoid tight-fitting clothing. Wear cotton underwear. Change out of a wet swimsuit right away. Change pads or tampons often. Don't douche or use feminine deodorants.
A healthy vagina has many bacteria and a small number of yeast cells. The most common bacteria, Lactobacillus acidophilus, help keep yeast and other organisms under control. When something happens to change the balance of these organisms, yeast can grow too much and cause symptoms.
Things that may cause an overgrowth of vaginal yeast include:
Most yeast infections are caused by a type of yeast called Candida albicans. Yeast infections that keep coming back tend to involve other types of yeast. These are harder to treat.
The following actions can help prevent a vaginal yeast infection.
A balanced diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat dairy products.
Some women think that eating foods with lactobacillus organisms, such as yogurt or acidophilus milk, will help prevent yeast infections. So far there is no evidence for this connection. But eating foods that contain lactobacillus can be part of a healthy diet.
Good control of blood sugar levels decreases the risk of yeast infections anywhere on your body.
Antibiotics can change the normal balance of vaginal organisms, allowing excess growth of yeast.
The symptoms of vaginal yeast infection include:
Symptoms are more likely to occur during the week before your menstrual period.
Vaginal yeast infections often clear up on their own without treatment, usually when menstruation begins. Menstrual blood raises the vaginal pH, causing the number of yeast cells to decrease because they can't grow in the pH present during menstruation.
There are significant differences between occasional, easily treatable yeast infections and recurrent infections that seriously affect a woman's life. Recurring vaginal yeast infections can be difficult to prevent or cure. Women who have recurring yeast infections should be evaluated for other causes (such as diabetes, hormone therapy, or treatment-resistant strains of yeast) so that the cause can be treated or reversed.
Call your doctor now if you:
Call your doctor for an appointment if you:
If your symptoms are mild and you are sure they are caused by a vaginal yeast infection, waiting several days to see if the symptoms clear up on their own isn't harmful, especially if you expect your menstrual period within that time. Sometimes a menstrual period will relieve the symptoms of a mild yeast infection. If your symptoms continue, you can use nonprescription medicine. If you still have symptoms after treatment, see your doctor.
It's easy to guess wrong about a vaginal infection. See your doctor if you aren't sure what you have, if this is the first time you have had symptoms, or if you're pregnant. Your doctor may be able to diagnose the problem based on your medical history and a vaginal exam.
If your symptoms aren't typical of a yeast infection, your doctor can do a wet mount test to look for signs of yeast or other organisms.
If you have vaginal yeast infections that are severe or that keep coming back (recur), you may have other tests. Tests include:
A mild vaginal yeast infection may go away without treatment. If your symptoms are mild, you may want to wait to see if they clear up on their own.
If you're not pregnant and you know that your symptoms are caused by a yeast infection, you can treat yourself at home with over-the-counter medicines. You can use an antifungal cream or vaginal suppositories.
Don't use over-the-counter treatment without talking to your doctor if you:
Treatment options also include prescription antifungal pills or vaginal medicine.
Here are some things you can do at home to ease symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection.
When you clean your vaginal area, rinse with water only.
Tell your doctor if your self-treatment isn't working after one complete course of therapy.
Current as of:
February 11, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineDeborah A. Penava BA, MD, FRCSC, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as of: February 11, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Deborah A. Penava BA, MD, FRCSC, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.