Yeast infections are fungal infections of the vulva or the vagina. Accounting for 29% of all vaginal infections, they are second only to bacterial vaginosis (BV) in prevalence when it comes to vaginal infections.
Yeast is naturally present in the body, but its growth is constrained by the beneficial bacteria of the vaginal flora. These bacteria help maintain the balance of the vaginal flora and prevent yeast overgrowth which is responsible for yeast infections.
It is easy to mistake a yeast infection for some other infection, such as bacterial vaginosis (BV). While there are over-the-counter BV treatments that work well, identifying the symptoms specific to a yeast infection can help form the correct diagnosis. Yeast infection causes a thick, white discharge with a cottage cheese-like consistency and bread or beer-like smell. Yeast infection symptoms that are similar to the symptoms of other infections are redness and swelling of the vulva, a burning sensation, irritation, and itching.
Symptoms of a Yeast Infection
Some of the commonest symptoms of a yeast infection are:
- Redness and soreness of the vagina
- Painful or burning micturition
- Itchiness and swelling
- Rash on the vagina
- Clumpy, grayish-white discharge
The discharge often resembles cottage cheese, but it can also be watery. The symptoms vary in severity depending upon the duration of the infection. Untreated infections tend to have worse symptoms.
Causes of a Yeast Infection
The human body contains trillions of microbes such as fungi and bacteria. The vagina naturally contains the fungus candida and the bacteria lactobacillus. The latter keeps the growth of candida in check. Any imbalance in lactobacilli leads to candida overgrowth and a vaginal yeast infection.
Some factors that may cause an imbalance in microorganism growth include:
- Stress and lack of sleep
- Weakened immunity
- Eating sugary food
- Hormonal imbalance
Candida albicans is usually responsible for yeast infections. Fortunately, it can be treated easily. Recurrent yeast infections are sometimes caused by other types of candida. In this case, you should see a doctor who may order some tests to find the exact strain of bacteria responsible for the infection and prescribe medication accordingly.
When to See a Doctor
When you experience your first yeast infection, you should see a doctor. Yeast infections sometimes resemble other infections such as bacterial vaginosis (BV), urinary tract infections (UTIs), and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The doctor will rule out these possibilities to ensure that you don’t experience any fertility and pregnancy issues later. If you have recurrent yeast infections, you will learn to differentiate between the different infections.
If treating the infection with an over-the counter Yeast Infection treatment does not result in any significant improvement of symptoms within a week, talk to your doctor. You may have a different infection and you may need to change the treatment plan. For a persistent yeast infection, you may need to take an antifungal infection.