Yeast Infections; Overview

Yeast Infections; Overview

Vaginal yeast infections, also called candida vaginal infections or candidiasis, are common and easily treated in most women. Candida is a fungus. It exists in small amounts in the vagina, mouth and gastrointestinal tract. When the fungus overgrows in the vagina, a yeast infection develops. This causes uncomfortable symptoms such as vaginal itching, burning and discharge. Uncontrolled diabetes, and the use of antibiotics and the contraceptive sponge, diaphragm and spermicides are associated with more frequent yeast infections.

Most women–as many as 75 percent–will have at least one diagnosis of vaginal yeast infection during their lifetime. They are one of the most common causes of vaginitis, an inflammation of the vagina characterized by discharge and irritation.

Yeast infections may be more common during pregnancy, perhaps due to a chemical change in the vaginal environment–essentially there is more sugar in the vaginal secretions that nourishes the fungus. Similarly, people with diabetes also get yeast infections more frequently.

About 5 percent of women with vaginal yeast infections develop recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC), defined as four or more symptomatic vaginal yeast infections during a 12-month period. Although RVVC is more common in women who have diabetes or problems with their immune system, most women with RVVC have no underlying medical illness that would predispose them to recurrent candida infections.

Vaginal infections can also be caused by bacterial vaginosis (BV), the most common cause of vaginitis in women of childbearing age, and trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection. BV and trichomoniasis are associated with more serious reproductive health conditions. Because these infections can have symptoms similar to those of yeast infections, yet can have more serious reproductive effects, it’s important to see a health care professional to evaluate and diagnose any vaginal symptoms. A variety of medications can treat vaginal infections, but proper diagnosis is key.


“Frequently Asked Questions about Vaginal Health.” 3M National Vaginitis Association. Accessed September 2005.

“Vaginitis Due to Vaginal Infections.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institute of Health. June 1998. Accessed September 2005.

“Vaginitis: Questions & Answers.” Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Last updated Feb. 2005. Accessed September 2005.

“What Women Are Asking about Yeast Infections” McNeil-PPC, Inc. Accessed September 2005.

“Fluconazole Side Effects and Drug Interactions.” RxList 2002. Last updated: Dec. 8, 2004. Accessed September 2005.

Keywords: Autoimmune disease,Immunosuppressive drugs,Tolerance,Wu-wei

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