Yeast Infections

Yeast Infections

What is yeast?

Yeast vaginitis is an infection caused by a fungus called Candida. It is one of the most common vaginal infections.

Symptoms develop when large numbers of a fungus called Candida 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.

Yeast infections often also occur during the week preceding a menstrual period.

Yeast can cause an infection for anyone with a vagina, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of a yeast infection include:

  • Vaginal itching and burning, which are often worse at night
  • Feelings of vaginal dryness or rawness
  • Pain with sex
  • Vaginal discharge

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.

How is yeast diagnosed?

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 used any vaginal medication for at least 48 hours.

How is yeast treated?

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.Douching does not cure yeast infections, and may actually make them worse.

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 CandidaChlamydia, gonorrhea and bacterial vaginosis 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.

  • Douching should never be done as it may carry an infection deeper into the body.
  • Do not use tampons while you are using the vaginal yeast medication as the tampon may absorb the medication and make it less effective.

How can I prevent or decrease my chances of getting a yeast infection?

  • Careful personal hygiene is helpful. Keep the genital area dry, clean, and cool.  Wear loose fitting cotton underclothing.  Avoid wearing panty hose, tight jeans or pants, or wet bathing suits and damp gym clothing.
  • Do not use feminine hygiene sprays or deodorants, bath oils or salts, or scented sanitary pads or tampons.
  • Do not douche.
  • Avoid using antibacterial soaps (i.e. Coast, Safeguard, Irish Spring, Dial, Lever 2000, etc.) in the genital area as they can cause dryness and irritation to the mucous membrane surrounding the vaginal opening.
  • Wipe from front to rear (away from the vagina) after a bowel movement.

Are sexual partners treated?

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.

Can I have sex?

Although penetrative sex is not dangerous during the treatment of a yeast infection, it’s better to abstain.

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.

Additional resources

If you need an appointment to be checked for yeast, contact Hall Health Center.

Read other Hall Health Center sexual health articles.

Planned Parenthood’s article on Yeast Infections and Vaginitis

CDC’s page on Bacterial Vaginosis

If you have any questions and are a UW student or established Hall Health patient, you may call one of our Consulting Nurses for further information.


Authored by: Hall Health Center Women’s Health Clinic staff

Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Women’s Health Clinic staff, January 2014