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Yeast Infection : Truth and Considerations

Candida albicans is the name of the fungus responsible for a vaginal yeast infection. Also called yeast vaginitis, a vaginal yeast infection is characterized by genital itching, pain with intercourse, burning with urination, and a thick, white discharge. The yeast infection can spread from the female to the male partner, causing penis irritation, redness, and itching. Candida is normally present in the vagina in small amounts, which does not produce symptoms. However, when the number of fungus increases, symptoms do appear.

Yeast Infection : Truth and Considerations

Causes of Yeast Infection

Yeast is a type of fungus. Candida albicans is normally present on the human skin, particularly in moist regions, such as the mouth, vagina, armpits, and beneath the breasts. Around 35 percent of women have heavy yeast in the genital region of their bodies. Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina, affecting as many as 75 percent of females at some time during the lifespan. Vulvitis is inflammation of the external genitalia, including the clitoris, labia, and vaginal opening (vestibule). Like vaginitis, vulvitis is caused by infections and irritants.

One common reason women get yeast infections is when the protective bacteria of the vagina are disrupted or eradicated by antibiotics or immunosuppressive drugs. In the absence of normal vaginal flora, the yeast multiply and invade the skin tissue, leading to irritation and infection. When there is injury to the vaginal area from chemotherapy or a cortisone-related medication, yeast infections are more likely to occur. Additional causes include vaginal hygiene sprays, pregnancy, diabetes mellitus, and oral contraceptives.

Other factors that increase the risk for a vaginal yeast infection include:



Lack of sleep

Eating too much sugary foods



The symptoms of a yeast infection vary from woman to woman. They include:

Vaginal itching

Genital redness

Pain with sex

Burning with urination

Thick, white vaginal discharge

Vaginal odor

Vulvitis can lead to pain in the external genital area, with around five percent of women reporting vulvovaginitis as a recurrent problem. Recurrent yeast infection occurs when a woman has four or more yeast infections in a 12 month period, which are not related to antibiotic use. Recurrent infections are often related to an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes mellitus.

Diagnosis of Yeast Infection

The diagnosis of a yeast infection is usually made based on the woman's description of her symptoms. Occasionally, the doctor will find it necessary to conduct a pelvic examination and take a sample of the vaginal discharge for analysis. For confirmation of yeast vaginitis, the doctor can view the discharge under the microscope to detect budding yeast.

Treatment of Yeast Infection

Vaginal yeast infections and external vulvitis can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications. These medications include butoconazole (Femstat 3), coltrimazole (Lotrimin), miconazole (Monistat), and terconazole (Terazol). Also, vaginal tablets include Mycostatin, Terazol, Micatin, and Mycelex. A one dose prescription tablet commonly used to treat vaginal yeast infection is fluconazole (Diflucan).

Studies show that as many as 60 percent of women who use OTC yeast infection treatments really do not have a fungal vaginitis. Overuse of these medications can put a person at risk for a hard to treat infection. If you are unsure if or not your vaginitis is caused by yeast, consult a doctor for a sexually transmitted infection (STI) evaluation. Certain STIs that are untreated lead to infertility, cancer, difficulty with conception, and other health problems.

While a yeast infection is not an STI, experts recommend that the partner be treated if he is experiencing symptoms. Around 15 percent of men develop a red, itchy rash on the penis with contact to a woman with yeast infection. To prevent occurrence, men should be circumcised. 

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