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Understanding Vaginal Yeast Infections -- the Basics

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Vaginal yeast infections are common. About 75% of women will have a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime. Yeast infections, sometimes called candidiasis, develop where a moist environment encourages growth of the yeast fungus, such as the genitals.

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What Causes a Vaginal Yeast Infection?

Candida albicans causes 80% to 90% of vaginal yeast infections. This fungus thrives in the digestive tract, mucous membranes (such as in the vagina, mouth, and nose), and skin. Normally, bacteria in your body keep yeast in check. But when yeast grows too quickly, a vaginal yeast infection can occur. This can happen when you're weakened by illness or upset by stress. A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted disease.

Your chance of getting a vaginal yeast infection is higher if you take antibiotics or use hormone contraceptives containing estrogen. Contraceptive diaphragms, intrauterine devices, and sponges may also raise the risk. Women who are pregnant, have diabetes, or who have weak immune systems also are at higher risk of vaginal yeast infections.

About 10% to 20% percent of yeast infections are caused by non-albicans candida and may not respond to certain medications.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Trina Pagano, MD on March 14, 2015
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