A vaginal yeast infection, also known as vaginal candidiasis, genital candidiasis, or vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC), is an infection involving a type of fungus, or yeast. The fungus most commonly associated with vaginal yeast infection is called Candida albicans, which account for up to 92% of all cases, with the remainder due to other species of Candida. These fungi can be found all over the body and are normally present in warm and moist areas of the body. Studies have shown that up to 20%-50% of all women normally carry yeast in the vagina without the presence of symptoms. When C albicans in the vagina multiplies to the point of infection, this infection can cause vaginal inflammation, irritation, odor, discharge, and itching.
Vaginal yeast infections are extremely common. Seventy-five percent of all women develop a yeast infection at some point during their lives.
A vaginal yeast infection is not considered a sexually-transmitted infection (STD), but 12%-15% of men develop symptoms such as itching and penile rash following sexual contact with an infected partner.
Under normal circumstances, a vaginal yeast infection is not serious and can be treated with medications. However, a vaginal yeast infection can be a sign an underlying, more serious condition or can lead to serious complications, especially if left untreated.
To help determine the cause of vaginal infection or irritation, the doctor usually asks the woman about her symptoms and performs a physical and pelvic examination. The doctor usually also tests the woman's urine and samples of vaginal discharge. Before the exam, sexual intercourse and douching should be avoided for one to two days to avoid complicating the diagnosis.
During the pelvic examination, the doctor inspects the woman's vaginal canal and cervix for discharge, sores, and any local pain or tenderness. The doctor may insert a speculum into the vagina to examine the cervix. This may be uncomfortable because of pressure on the vaginal tissues.
Most Candidal infections can be diagnosed without laboratory tests
The vagina is an environment that maintains its own balance of microorganisms. When this balance is disrupted, such as when the fungus Candida albicans is allowed to multiply unchecked, a vaginal yeast infection can result. The following are examples of factors that can disrupt the natural balance of microorganisms that live in the vagina:
- Antibiotics use: Antibiotics can destroy bacteria that protect the vagina. A vaginal yeast infection may develop during or after the use of antibiotics taken to treat other conditions such as strep throat.
- Steroid use
- Diabetes:This disease can lower the glycogen store in certain vaginal cells. Diabetes may also raise the sugar content (and pH) of the vagina, which increases the risk for developing a vaginal yeast infection.
Factors that can cause a weakened immune system (for example, HIV/AIDS, steroid use, pregnancy, cancer chemotherapy or other drugs that weaken the immune system)
Use of douches or feminine hygiene sprays
Scratches in the vagina (for example, caused during insertion of tampons or other objects).
- Underwear that is tight or made of a material other than cotton. (This can increase temperature, moisture, and local irritation.)
- Hormonal changes (ovulation,menopause, pregnancy, birth control pills,hormone therapy)
The following are symptoms associated with vaginal yeast infections:
- irritated vagina and vaginal area,
- vaginal discharge (typically white-gray and thick, with a consistency resembling cottage cheese),
- intense itching of the genitals,
- painful or burning urination, or
- painful intercourse.