Between puberty and menopause (and sometimes earlier or later), women are susceptible to vaginal yeast infections. Three out of four women have at least one in their lifetime, and many experience them more often.
Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent these uncomfortable infections if you know the conditions they thrive in.
A yeast infection starts when a fungus called Candida grows rapidly on the vulva (external female genitalia) and in the vagina. Candida is always present on the vulva and in the vagina, but it usually lives in a mutually beneficial relationship with good bacteria in the area called Lactobacillus.
When the balance of bacteria and yeast is changed, it can cause yeast to grow rapidly, inflaming the vagina. The balance can be affected by things like:
Yeast infections are not usually dangerous, but that doesn’t mean they’re not an annoyance. To prevent yeast infections, Womenshealth.gov offers these tips:
Additionally, some research suggests eating plain, non-flavored yogurt with live cultures may help prevent yeast infections because it contains the “good” lactobacillus bacteria. (Select a brand without sugar because yeast loves sugar.) A daily oral probiotic may also be beneficial.
Even if you do your best to prevent a yeast infection, you can still get one. The most common sign you have a yeast infection is severe and constant itchiness in and around the vagina.
Other symptoms may include burning, redness, swelling; pain when you urinate or have sex; or usually a thick white odorless discharge that looks like cottage cheese.
You can treat most yeast infections with over-the-counter antifungal creams or suppositories. Additionally, your doctor may also prescribe a single dose oral pill or a topical cream. Be sure to contact your doctor if: