Understanding Vaginal Yeast Infections -- the Basics
Vaginal yeast infections are common. About 75% of women will have a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime. Yeast infections, sometimes called candidiasis, develop where a moist environment encourages growth of the yeast fungus, such as the genitals.
By Amy Engeler
At 3 a.m., with all the houses dark up and down her winding suburban street in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann Frey, 37, lights a candle so she can see well enough to dust her furniture. Careful not to turn on any lights or make noise that might wake up her family, she drifts from room to room with her candle and cleaning supplies, waiting until she feels sleepy enough to climb back into bed. That feeling doesn't come -- and when she hears the alarm in the bedroom go off...
Candida albicans causes 80% to 90% of vaginal yeast infections. This fungus thrives in the digestive tract, mucous membranes (such as in the vagina, mouth, and nose), and skin. Normally, bacteria in your body keep yeast in check. But when yeast grows too quickly, a vaginal yeast infection can occur. This can happen when you're weakened by illness or upset by stress. A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted disease.
Your chance of getting a vaginal yeast infection is higher if you take antibiotics or use hormone contraceptives containing estrogen. Contraceptive diaphragms, intrauterine devices, and sponges may also raise the risk. Women who are pregnant, have diabetes, or who have weak immune systems also are at higher risk of vaginal yeast infections.
About 10% to 20% percent of yeast infections are caused by non-albicans candida and are often resistant to the usual treatments.