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What Is Candida or a Vaginal "Yeast" Infection?

Yeast infections of the vagina are what most women think of when they hear the term "vaginitis." Vaginal yeast infections are caused by one of the many species of fungus called Candida. Candida normally live in small numbers in the vagina, as well as in the mouth and digestive tract, of both men and women.

Yeast infections can produce a thick, white vaginal discharge with the consistency of cottage cheese although vaginal discharge may not always be present. Yeast infections usually cause the vagina and the vulva to be very itchy and red.

Are Vaginal Yeast Infections Spread Through Sex?

Yeast infections are not usually transmitted through sexual intercourse and are not considered a sexually transmitted disease.

What Increases the Risk of Vaginal Yeast Infections?

A few things will increase your risk of getting a yeast infection, including:

  • Recent treatment with antibiotics. For example, a woman may take an antibiotic to treat an infection, and the antibiotic kills her body's good bacteria that normally keep the yeast in balance. As a result, the yeast overgrows and causes the infection.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes. This allows for too much sugar in the urine and vagina.
  • Pregnancy which changes hormone levels.

Other factors include:

How Are Vaginal Yeast Infections Treated?

Yeast infections are most often treated with medicine that you put into your vagina. This medicine may be in cream or suppository form and many are available over-the-counter. Medicine in a pill form that you take by mouth is also available by prescription.

What Should I Do to Prevent Vaginal Yeast Infections?

To prevent yeast infections, you should:

  • Wear loose clothing made from natural fibers (cotton, linen, silk).
  • Avoid wearing tight pants.
  • Don't douche. (Douching can kill bacteria that control fungus.)
  • Limit the use of feminine deodorant.
  • Limit the use of deodorant tampons or pads to the times when you need them.
  • Change out of wet clothing, especially bathing suits, as soon as you can.
  • Avoid frequent hot tub baths.
  • Wash underwear in hot water.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Eat yogurt.
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar level as close to normal as possible.

If you get frequent yeast infections, tell your doctor. He or she may need to do certain tests to rule out other medical conditions.

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