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What Is a Yeast Infection?

Yeast infections are overgrowths of the fungus Candida that can affect various parts of the body but commonly occur in the vagina. Candida and other microorganisms often live in the vagina in tolerable numbers. When something triggers those numbers to increase, however, you can experience an infection.

Signs of a Yeast Infection

The most common symptoms of a yeast infection include:

  • Itching and burning around the vulva.
  • Redness and inflammation around the vulva.
  • Abnormal discharge that can range from watery and white to thick and chunky.
  • Pain during urination.
  • Pain during sex.

Yeast Infection Causes

Things that can cause an overgrowth of Candida include:

  • Taking antibiotics.
  • Being pregnant.
  • High-estrogen hormonal birth control.
  • Douching.
  • A weak immune system.
  • Diabetes.
  • Obesity.

Yeast infections are not considered sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, you can sometimes get them from having oral, vaginal, or anal sex with an affected partner. This is more likely if your partner is a woman than a man.

Treating Yeast Infections

Because yeast infections can mimic other infections and STIs, it’s important you see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment recommendations. You can buy over-the-counter antifungal creams, tablets, or suppositories, or you can take a prescription antifungal such as fluconazole. If you follow the product label or dosing instructions properly, the infection should clear up quickly and easily.

Preventing Yeast Infections

Steps you can take to help prevent a yeast infection include:

  • Not douching, which destroys the good bacteria that help fight infections.
  • Not using scented soaps, lotions, or feminine products.
  • Wearing breathable cotton underwear.
  • Avoiding skin-tight underwear or pants, which can trap heat and moisture.
  • Changing tampons or pads frequently.
  • Changing out of a wet bathing suit as soon as possible.
  • Wiping from front to back when you go to the bathroom.

Three out of four women will get a yeast infection during their lifetime. Fortunately, these infections are usually easy to treat.

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