What is a yeast infection?
Yeast infections, also known as candidiasis, are caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called candida. The candida fungus usually lives harmlessly on the skin and inside the body. When the fungus becomes too prolific, however, it can cause an infection.
The most common area for a yeast infection is the vagina. In fact, three out of four women get at least one vaginal yeast infection during their lives. While the symptoms can be uncomfortable, most yeast infections disappear quickly with the right treatment.
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What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?
Yeast infection symptoms can vary from mild to moderate in severity. If you have a vaginal yeast infection, you may experience:
- Itching and discomfort of the vagina or vulva
- Pain or a burning sensation, especially while urinating or during sex
- Red and swollen vulva
- Vaginal rash
- Discharge that is thick, white and odorless, with an appearance similar to cottage cheese
What causes yeast infections?
A yeast infection can happen when the conditions within your vagina change in a way that promotes the growth of the candida fungus. This often occurs when there is a depletion of the beneficial bacteria in the vagina that kill harmful organisms.
While a yeast infection can happen anytime, several risk factors can make a yeast infection more likely to occur.
Antibiotics kill many types of bacteria, including helpful ones. When you take antibiotics, many of the good bacteria living in your vagina may die, allowing harmful organisms to grow in their place.
Immune system disorders like HIV can make your body less effective at fighting off harmful organisms like candida.
Changes in hormones can upset the balance in your vagina. Birth control pills, pregnancy, breast-feeding, and menopause can affect levels of estrogen, a hormone that helps some beneficial bacteria grow.
Sexual activity can sometimes spread a yeast infection. However, yeast infections are not considered sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs) because they usually develop for other reasons.
Vaginal products like douches and vaginal sprays can put you at a higher risk for a yeast infection by upsetting the balance between bacteria and fungi in your vagina.
How are yeast infections treated?
Many yeast infection medications are available over the counter. These may be in the form of anti-fungal creams, suppositories, or ointments. These medications usually need to be applied for up to 7 days to clear up the infection.
Another yeast infection treatment is fluconazole, which comes in a pill form. With this prescription-only yeast infection medication, sometimes just one dose is all that is needed to fight the infection.
When should I see a doctor for yeast infection symptoms?
If you are experiencing vaginal discomfort, you should visit your medical provider. Your medical provider can determine whether the symptoms you’re experiencing are from a yeast infection or another condition. With the right diagnosis and knowledge of your medical history, your provider can help ensure you get the proper treatment.
What should I expect at my appointment?
At Physicians Immediate Care clinics, the medical provider attending you will ask several questions to understand your symptoms and your medical history. A full medical exam will be conducted to check your general health and diagnose your condition.
This may include a pelvic exam, where the medical provider examines the vulva, cervix, uterus, etc. for possible signs of illness or abnormality. During this exam, the provider may perform a swab, where a small sample of cells is taken from the cervix and/or fluid in the vagina. The sample will be sent to the lab to test for bacterial and fungal cultures.
Based on your medical history and the results of the medical exam and lab tests, your medical provider will recommend the best treatment for you.
Where can I find a doctor for my yeast infection?
Yeast infections can be uncomfortable, but with the right treatment, they usually clear up quickly. If you think you might have a vaginal yeast infection, make an appointment with your primary care physician or visit a Physicians Immediate Care clinic.
Choose from one of our 40+ locations and take advantage of our convenient, extended hours. Walk-in or make an appointment to receive professional care from a knowledgeable and respectful medical provider today.