Vaginal Yeast Infection: Symptoms & Causes

Medically Reviewed by Dr Sravya, MBBS, MS 


If your answer is “YES” to any or all of the above questions, you most probably have a vaginal infection.

Infections of the vagina, or vaginitis, can be caused by both bacteria and yeast (fungus). Bacterial infections of the vagina are more common than vaginal yeast infections. In this article, we will talk about the symptoms and causes of vaginal yeast infections.

Yeast is naturally present on the skin, mouth, throat, gut, and vagina and is not harmful. But an uncontrolled increase of yeast in these areas causes infection. The overgrowth of yeast in the vagina and the vulva (the area around the vagina) causes a vaginal yeast infection.

Vaginal candidiasis and thrush are other terms used for the same condition since Candida albicans is the most common fungus that causes infections in humans.

Although women of all ages may get infected, they are more likely to get the infection during their childbearing years. Fewer cases of vaginal infections are seen in girls before puberty or in women after menopause.

    1. 75% of women experience vaginal yeast infections at least once in their lifetime.
    2.  Most women may get infected two or more times.

The infection usually clears up after a short course of treatment with vaginal suppositories, creams, or oral anti-fungal tablets.

Yeast infection

Yeast infections caused by candida other than Candida albicans are more difficult to treat.

If your infection recurs more than three times in a year, the condition is called recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis. Uncontrolled diabetes or a weak immune system may increase your risk of multiple infections. Your doctor may recommend longer treatment and maintenance. Take this seriously, as multiple infections can lead to complications in the future.

Symptoms of Vaginal Yeast Infection

You experience signs and symptoms of a yeast infection when the fungus penetrates the deeper layers of the vagina or involves the vulva, labia, and urethra.

You may not have any symptoms or only a few of the following:

The symptoms may become worse a few days before the period.

Women with multiple infections in a year may experience more severe symptoms:

The symptoms of vaginal yeast infection are similar to those of bacterial vaginitis. You may waste a lot of time trying to self-treat your infection with over-the-counter anti-fungal creams when you may have bacterial vaginitis. If left untreated, bacterial vaginitis may cause more serious infections.

You may also develop resistance because of the unnecessary use of anti-fungal treatments. This makes it difficult to treat an actual yeast infection. We recommend that you consult a doctor to confirm what is causing your infection and treat it accordingly.

What Causes a Yeast Infection?

Your vagina or birth canal naturally houses a lot of microorganisms (germs), such as bacteria and yeast. The lactobacillus, or good bacteria, makes the environment in the vagina acidic. This limits the overgrowth of other bacteria and fungi, and your vagina stays healthy.

But certain conditions may change this balance and lead to an overgrowth of yeast, causing a vaginal yeast infection.

1. Conditions that change the natural environment of the vagina :

a. Hormonal changes

High estrogen levels in the blood increase your chances of a vaginal yeast infection. Your body produces more estrogen during pregnancy. Estrogen levels are also higher in women on oral contraceptives.

Thus, vaginal candidiasis is more likely

b. Antibiotics

The use of antibiotics such as amoxicillin may cause an imbalance in the natural vaginal flora and cause a yeast infection.

c. Vaginal sprays and Douching

Scented vaginal sprays and excessive douching remove the good bacteria from the vagina; the yeast grows unchecked and causes infection.

d. Tight clothes and Synthetic underwear

Do you ever wonder why bread molds faster in the rainy season? It is because the warm and humid weather is ideal for the fungus to grow.

Similarly, tight and synthetic clothes make the pubic area warm and moist and create an ideal environment for the yeast to grow.

2. Weakened Immune System

If you fall into any of the above categories, your weakened immune system may fail to control the overgrowth of the yeast, and you may get an infection.

 – Talk to your doctor about your concerns and ask for ways to prevent the infection.

3. Intercourse with an infected partner

A vaginal yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like HIV. But the risk of infection increases when regular sexual activity begins.

You are likely to get the infection during oral, genital, or anal intercourse if your partner is infected.

– You can avoid this by using condoms.

Factors that may increase your risk of an extensive infection

    1. You experienced four or more episodes of yeast infections in a year.
    2.  The infection is caused by a less common type of fungus.
    3. Uncontrolled diabetes
    4.  Pregnancy

When should you see a doctor?

Do not feel embarrassed about your symptoms. It is more common than you think. Medications can effectively treat vaginal yeast infections. Consult your doctor if:

    1. You are observing the symptoms of vaginal yeast infection for the first time.
    2.  You are not sure whether the symptoms you are observing are due to the yeast infection.
    3. Over-the-counter antifungal creams are not helping, and you still have an itchy vagina and vulva.
    4.  You are seeing new symptoms.


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