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There are many names for a vaginal yeast infection: Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC), candidal vaginitis or monilial infection. Whatever you call it, it is a common cause of irritation of the vagina and vulva (area around the opening to the vagina). According to the National Women's Health Information Center (NWHIC), about 75 percent of women will have a vaginal yeast infection during their lives.
NWHIC says a kind of fungus called Candida causes vaginal yeast infections. (Read about "Microorganisms") It is normal to have some yeast in your vagina. Usually yeast is in balance with other organisms. But sometimes the balance is lost, and yeast overgrowth occurs. Hormonal changes, such as occur with menopause, can affect the acidity of the vagina and lead to yeast overgrowth. Another common cause of yeast infections is taking antibiotics. (Read about "Menopause" "Antibiotics")
Symptoms of vaginal yeast infections may be mild or very uncomfortable, and can include:
Your risk of developing a yeast infection can be increased by pregnancy and other hormonal changes, diabetes that isn't well controlled, a weakened immune system, and the use of certain drugs such as steroids and antibiotics. (Read about "Healthy Pregnancy" "Diabetes" "The Immune System" "Antibiotics")
Symptoms of yeast infections can be similar to symptoms of other kinds of vaginal infections, so if you suspect a yeast infection, you should see a healthcare professional. NWHIC says a lab test (Read about "Laboratory Testing") of a sample from the affected area can show if yeast is the cause of your symptoms.
Yeast infections can be treated with antifungal drugs, such as clotrimazole or miconazole. However, taking antifungal drugs when they are not needed, can help make yeast resistant to the drugs. For this reason, NWHIC says you should not use antifungal over-the-counter drugs unless you are sure that you have a yeast infection. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says that, if you suspect you have a yeast infection, you should see your doctor, to make sure that is what it is, and not some other disease or condition, such as bacterial vaginosis or an STD. (Read about "Bacterial Vaginosis" "STD's")
NWHIC says you can also try to avoid yeast infections by taking certain precautions. Don't use douches, perfumed vaginal sprays, or other scented products that irritate the vagina. Wear cotton underpants and pantyhose with a cotton crotch to help keep the genital area ventilated. If you have a problem with recurring yeast infections, ask your healthcare provider about ways to prevent them. You may also need to be screened for other disorders, such as diabetes. (Read about "Diabetes")
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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