From your health and wellness experts at Prisma Health
Women's Health

Is it a yeast infection?

Columbia Women’s Healthcare

Pretty much every woman will ask this question at some point, and many more than once. Since yeast infections are so common, Kathryn Imgrund, MD, Columbia Women’s Healthcare, explains the causes, symptoms and ways to prevent them from happening to you.

But first, what is it? A vaginal yeast infection is an infection of the vagina that causes itching and burning of the vulva, the area around the vagina. Vaginal yeast infections are most commonly caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida. Other symptoms include:

  • Redness and swelling.
  • Pain during sex or urination.
  • Soreness.
  • Vaginal rash.
  • Thick, white, odor-free vaginal discharge.
  • Watery vaginal discharge.

Are some women more at risk for yeast infections? Yes. Your risk increases if you:

  • Are taking antibiotics.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Have uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Have an impaired immune system.

To prevent yeast infections, avoid the following:

  • Underwear that does not have a cotton crotch.
  • Underwear that is too tight.
  • Douching. This removes the normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection.
  • Taking a daily probiotic high in lactobacillus species.
  • Decreasing sugar intake.
  • Scented feminine products, including bubble bath, pads and tampons.
  • Hot tubs or very hot baths.
  • Unnecessary antibiotic use.
  • Staying in wet clothes, such as swimsuits or workout attire.
Most yeast infections are typically treated with an over-the-counter antifungal medicine. “This is a safe and effective way to treat a yeast infection, particularly, the three- to seven-day preparations,” Dr. Imgrund said. However, it is important to confirm with your doctor that you have a yeast infection before starting any medications. If you get four or more yeast infections over the course of a year, talk to your doctor as soon as possible in case you have a more serious infection. 

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