Yeast vaginitis is an "infection" caused by a fungus called Candida that is a normal inhabitant of the rectum and the vagina. It is one of the most common vaginal infections.
Symptoms develop when large numbers of these Candida organisms are present in the vagina. This "overgrowth" can occur spontaneously either without identifiable cause or in association with the use of birth control pills, pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes, or antibiotic therapy.
Candida infections often cause symptoms during the week preceding a menstrual period.
The most common symptoms of a yeast infection are vaginal itching and burning which are often worse at night. The vagina can feel dry and raw, and intercourse may be painful.
Yeast vaginitis is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, and women who have never been sexually active can develop a yeast infection.
These infections do not involve the fallopian tubes or uterus, and therefore do not interfere with fertility.
Yeast vaginitis can be diagnosed by taking some of the discharge from your vagina and viewing it under the microscope. The discharge also can be cultured. These tests are most accurate when a woman has not douched or used any vaginal medication for at least 48 hours.
Yeast infections are usually treated with an antifungal vaginal cream or suppository, available either by prescription or over the counter (OTC). A prescription for oral medication is also available. Most of the vaginal creams or suppositories must be used for 3 to 7 nights to cure the infection.
Although symptoms may go away before completing the treatment, it is important to finish all the medication recommended on the package or by your clinician to cure the infection.
The OTC medications now available for treating yeast infections are effective for only those infections caused by Candida. Organisms other than Candida (including those involved in several sexually transmitted diseases) can produce similar symptoms. Therefore, it is important for you to have previously had at least one yeast infection diagnosed by a health care provider so that the provider can prescribe an appropriate medication for your symptoms.
It also is important either to have an up-to-date screening for sexually transmitted diseases or to obtain one for yourself and your most recent new sexual partner.
Generally men do not get yeast infections. Male partners who do have symptoms such as itching, rash, burning with urination or discharge from the penis should be evaluated.
Since it is unknown whether yeast is transmitted between women, female partners should be evaluated for yeast.
Although intercourse is not dangerous during the treatment of a yeast infection, abstinence is advised.
Intercourse can irritate vaginal tissue and increase inflammation and soreness. If you use a barrier method of birth control, it is important to know that yeast creams or suppositories may be oil based and can weaken diaphragms, cervical caps and latex condoms.
If you have any questions, you may call a consulting nurse service for further information
Authored by: Ingrid Helsel, RN