What is a vaginal yeast infection?
A vaginal yeast
infection is an excess growth of yeast cells in the vagina. Although a vaginal
yeast infection can cause severe vaginal and genital itching, pain, and
irritation, it is very unlikely to lead to serious health problems. But a yeast
infection that recurs frequently is considered a medical problem, because the
symptoms can be so disruptive.
vagina normally contains many bacteria and small
numbers of yeast cells (vaginal flora). The most common bacteria found in the
vagina are Lactobacillus acidophilus. These bacteria
help prevent other organisms, such as yeast, from growing in excess and causing
vaginal symptoms. About 70% to 90% of yeast infections are caused by a strain
of yeast called Candida albicans.2, 3 This type of yeast is targeted by
azole antifungal medicines.
Overgrowth of vaginal yeast can be
promoted by many factors, including broad-spectrum antibiotic medicines, high
estrogen levels (as during pregnancy or
hormone replacement therapy), or certain medical
conditions, such as
How is vaginal yeast infection treated?
vaginal yeast infection (acute infection) is usually treated with either:
- An antifungal cream or
suppository inserted into the vagina. You repeat this
treatment over several days.
- One antifungal pill you take by
An alternative treatment also recommended by experts is
boric acid capsules, especially for yeast that has resisted antifungal
What are the risks of not treating or treating a vaginal yeast infection?
Not treating. A vaginal yeast
infection does not lead to major health problems, and you may find that a mild
infection corrects itself. But you are not likely to be able to go without
treatment if you have severe symptoms.
Treating. Perhaps the greatest risks you face when treating a
vaginal yeast infection are related to self-diagnosis and self-treatment. If
you have had a diagnosed yeast infection before, if you correctly diagnose your
condition based on past symptoms, and if you self-treat with a nonprescription
treatment as directed, your risks are minimal. But if you misdiagnose your
condition, you could be delaying diagnosis of a
different problem, such as a
bacterial vaginal infection or a
sexually transmitted disease (STD). One study found
that about 2 out of 3 women who think they have a simple yeast infection
If you are pregnant and think you
have a yeast infection, do not self-treat your symptoms. Only use treatment
based on your doctor's diagnosis and treatment advice.
yeast infection vaginally poses no major risks. The cream or suppository
medicine only affects the vaginal area and does not usually cause pain or
tenderness. Some women get a headache, abdominal pain, or nausea after
treatment with the oral medicine. But these side effects are not common after a
single treatment dose. Side effects are more likely to occur after you have had
more than one treatment (multi-dose treatment) of the oral medicine. You will
most likely need multi-dose treatment only if your infection is severe or if it
comes back after the first treatment.
If you need more information, see the topic
Vaginal Yeast Infections.