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Women's Healths

Yeast Infections

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

A vaginal yeast infection (candidiasis) is caused by an excess growth of yeast organisms in the vagina. Yeast infections are common in women of childbearing age. They can cause severe discomfort but rarely cause serious problems.

Common symptoms of yeast infection include vaginal itching (often severe); white, curdy, usually odourless vaginal discharge; and pain when urinating and during sexual intercourse. The skin around the vagina (labia) may be red and irritated. If you have burning and pain when urinating and feel the need to urinate often, see Urinary Tract Infections on See Urinary Tract Infections.

Yeast infections are not spread by sexual contact. However, some doctors feel that treating your sex partner with antifungal medications may help prevent recurrent yeast infections.

Yeast infections are commonly associated with antibiotic or steroid use, pregnancy, diabetes, and illnesses that weaken the immune system. In addition, douching frequently,

wearing tight clothing, or using strong soaps or perfumed feminine hygiene products may contribute to vaginal irritation or infection.

Prevention

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  • Drink acidophilus milk or eat yogurt that contains live Lactobacillus organisms. Yogurt has been shown to prevent vaginal yeast infections.

  • Wear cotton or cotton-lined underwear. Avoid tight-fitting pants and undergarments. They increase heat and moisture in the vaginal area, which may allow yeast to grow more easily in your vagina.

  • Avoid feminine sprays, talcs, or perfumes in your vaginal area, because they may affect the balance among the microorganisms in your vagina. Do not douche unless your health professional instructs you to do so.

  • Wipe your vaginal area from front to back after using the toilet and when bathing.

  • If you have diabetes, limiting your sugar intake and controlling your diabetes will help prevent yeast infections.

Home Treatment

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Left untreated, vaginal yeast infections often clear up on their own, usually when your period begins. Be sure you have a yeast infection before you try self-treatment.

  • Use a nonprescription antifungal medication for yeast infections (such as Canestin, Monistat 7, or a store brand) as directed.

  • Drink acidophilus milk or regularly eat yogurt that contains live Lactobacillus cultures.

  • Douche with yogurt that contains live Lactobacillus cultures. Talk with your doctor before using a yogurt douche.

  • Avoid excessive cleaning of your vaginal area. Wash once a day with plain water or a mild, nonperfumed soap.

  • Don't use tampons while using a topical treatment (cream or vaginal suppositories) for a vaginal yeast infection. The tampons can absorb the medication. Use sanitary pads instead.

  • If sexual intercourse causes discomfort, avoid it until your symptoms go away.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If you develop lower abdominal pain or a fever greater than 38.3°C (101°F) along with symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection.

  • If you think this is the first time you've had a yeast infection, or if you aren't sure whether your symptoms are being caused by a yeast infection.

  • If Home Treatment with a nonprescription antifungal product fails to clear up a yeast infection within 3 or 4 days, or if you are using antifungal creams repeatedly.

  • If you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. See Urinary Tract Infections.

  • If you are or may be pregnant.

  • If symptoms of a yeast infection return within 2 months and you have not been taking antibiotics.

If you plan to see a health professional, do not douche, use vaginal creams, or have sexual intercourse for 48 hours before your appointment. Doing these things may make your problem more difficult to diagnose.

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