What is a Yeast Infection?

Yeast infection fungal infection

Yeast infections, also known as thrush, monilia, vaginal candidiasis, vulvovaginal candidiasis, and candidal vaginitis, is a common fungal infection that causes symptoms such as irritation, discharge, and intense itching in the vagina and vulva. It is caused by an overgrowth of the candida fungus, which is normally present in the body in small amounts. Vaginal candidiasis is not dangerous and can be treated easily but it can be unpleasant, itchy and sometimes painful. It affects 70% of people at some point in their lives. 8% of people deal with recurrent infections. In the US alone, yeast infections are responsible for 1.4 million outpatient visits per year, making them the second most common type of vaginal infection. However, many people do not visit the doctor for yeast infections, so the true incidence is likely higher. Yeast infections can be frustrating and itchy, but it is important to know how to identify and treat them effectively.

What does it feel like?

A yeast infection typically causes itching and burning sensations around the vulva and vagina. Other symptoms may include pain during sexual intercourse or while urinating, as well as a thick, odorless discharge that may be white, greenish, or yellow-tinged. These symptoms can vary in intensity and may not all be present at the same time. In severe cases, there may also be swelling, redness, and small cracks (fissures) around the vulva and vagina. These symptoms can cause discomfort and can make a person miserable.

How to get rid of a yeast infection?

It is important to consult a medical professional before attempting to self-treat a yeast infection, as many other conditions can have similar symptoms. Over-the-counter medications are available, but a pelvic exam and swab test from a doctor can provide a more accurate diagnosis. Home remedies, such as yogurt or garlic, have not been scientifically proven to be effective in treating yeast infections and may even cause harm. Antifungal medications, in the form of creams, pills, or suppositories, are the most reliable way to clear up a yeast infection. A doctor may also recommend a topical ointment to alleviate symptoms such as itching, pain, and swelling. If the infection is severe or recurrent, the doctor may recommend a different course of treatment.

Causes of a yeast infection

Yeast infections, caused by the overgrowth of candida fungus, are commonly found in young people, those taking certain types of hormonal birth control, pregnant women, and postmenopausal people on hormone replacement therapy. Antibiotics can also disrupt the balance of good bacteria and lead to yeast infections. Factors such as a weakened immune system, diabetes, and certain clothing choices can also increase the risk of a yeast infection. The length of a yeast infection can vary, with mild infections clearing up in a few days with over-the-counter treatment, while moderate to severe infections may take up to two weeks and require prescription medicine. Failing to properly treat a yeast infection can worsen symptoms and increase the chances of it recurring. Consult with a healthcare professional for proper treatment and advice on preventing future infections.

Chronic yeast infections

Chronic yeast infections, defined as having four or more flare-ups a year, are a common problem for many people. A 2018 study estimated that 138 million people worldwide are affected by recurring yeast infections every year. Common causes of chronic yeast infections include drug resistance, where the yeast belongs to a strain that is resistant to common antifungal drugs, and a previous infection that was never fully treated. Medical conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes and a weakened immune system can also make yeast infections more likely to return. To properly treat a chronic yeast infection, it is best to see a medical professional for a proper diagnosis and prescription, as it may not be a yeast infection at all and antifungals may not be effective.

Treatments for chronic yeast infections

When dealing with chronic yeast infections, it's important to see a medical professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. It may not be a yeast infection at all and the use of antifungals may not be effective. A healthcare professional may try different treatment options such as creams, pills, suppositories, or ointments and may also prescribe suppressive treatment that is taken for a longer period, even after symptoms have gone away. They may also factor in any underlying medical conditions and take a swab to check which strain of candida is causing the infection. If the yeast is drug-resistant, a specialist may be needed. Recurring yeast infections can have a serious impact on a person's quality of life and it's important to not give up on finding the right treatment.


It's important to see a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis if you have symptoms of a yeast infection, but it's not clear what's causing them. Other conditions that can cause similar symptoms include vulval dermatitis, genital herpes, bacterial vaginosis, lichen sclerosis, urinary tract infections, vestibulitis, and lichen simplex chronicus. All of these conditions can be treated, so it's important to get the right diagnosis and medication to address the underlying issue.

How long should you avoid having sex?

It is best to avoid having sex while you have a yeast infection as it can slow down the healing process and can be passed back and forth between partners. It can also make symptoms worse as the vaginal tissue is already inflamed and sore. It is best to wait until all symptoms have cleared up after a course of treatment.