You get a yeast infection when you experience an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans in the vagina. The vagina naturally contains a small amount of Candida balanced with a bacteria known as lactobacillus. When there’s an imbalance, you can experience a yeast infection.
What Increases the Chance of Getting a Yeast Infection?
Yeast infections occur when your vaginal chemistry is out of balance. There are many things that can cause this imbalance including:
- Antibiotic use
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- A weak immune system
- High stress levels
- Lack of sleep
An imbalance may also occur when your hormone levels change. This can happen when:
- You are pregnant
- You’re taking oral contraceptives
- You’re undergoing hormone therapy
- You near your menstrual cycle
How Do I Know if I Have a Yeast Infection?
Common symptoms of a yeast infection include:
- Itching or burning of the vagina
- Redness of the vagina
- Discomfort during sex
- A yeasty odor
- Thick, white discharge
What Should I Do About a Yeast Infection?
If you’ve never had a yeast infection before, you should have your local medical provider confirm your diagnosis. This is done with a simple pelvic exam. If you’re familiar with yeast infection symptoms, you can typically treat this condition yourself with an over-the-counter antifungal treatment.
How Can I Prevent Yeast Infections?
Candida likes to grow in warm, dark, damp environments, which makes the vagina an ideal spot. Decrease your chances of getting a yeast infection by:
- Avoiding tight-fitting underwear, pantyhose, or pants
- Taking off wet clothing and swimsuits as soon as possible
- Showering rather than bathing
- Using unscented soaps, pads, and tampons
- Washing the vagina with gentle soap and water, not douches
Keeping the vagina clean and dry will help you prevent yeast infections. However, yeast infections are very common in women and may occasionally occur despite your best efforts.