How do u know if u have a yeast infection?

Yeast infections. You say the phrase and it immediately conjures images of itching, burning, and lots of wiggling around in your seat. It almost makes you automatically clench up your vaginal muscles, as if that could prevent unwanted intruders from disrupting your sexual health, doesn’t it?

Go ahead and unclench. Yeast infections, while not exactly pleasant, aren’t the end of the world, says Lisa Masterson, M.D., a practicing ob-gyn and former co-host of The Doctors. “Most women get super anxious about them, wondering how they got it, what this means for their long-term health, and how to treat it,” she says. “But it’s a super treatable infection that isn’t going to haunt you forever.”

So even if you think you know everything there is to know about yeast infections, read on. The shocking statistics — and myth-busters — may surprise you.


1. Yeast infections are ridiculously common…and most women don’t know what to do about them.

Three out of four women are diagnosed with a yeast infection at some point in their life, according to a recent survey. But 53 percent of women don’t have a clue on how to deal with them, and two-thirds don’t know how to cure them. Which explains why Monistat, the makers of a treatment cream for yeast infections, launched their Time for TMI campaign — with it being such a common infection, there’s no reason for you to not understand what’s happening with your vagina.

2. It isn’t anything like an STD.

According to that same survey above, 81 percent of patients that come in to treat a yeast infection fear that it was sexually transmitted through their partners, or that having sex led to it. Point blank, it wasn’t. Not even close. A yeast infection, in fact, is simply a pH imbalance inside of the vagina that leads to a buildup of yeast, and it’s often caused by your hormones going out of whack, explains Masterson. “It can be caused by a myriad of things — hormonal contraceptives like the Pill, stress, a weakened immune system because you’re tired or not sleeping well, and environmental conditions, like staying in your sweaty clothes or wet bathing suit.”

3. It’s also different from a bacterial infection.

Even more commonly than the STD thought is the misdiagnosis of a yeast infection, or the assumption that it’s like — and therefore treated the same as — a bacterial infection. “They both fall under the heading of vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina, and bacterial vaginosis can sometimes be confused with yeast infections because the symptoms are similar,” says Masterson. “But bacteria shifts the vaginal pH in a different direction, and requires an antibiotic to clear it up, while a yeast infection needs an anti-fungal cream.”

4. You can diagnose yourself at home.

There isn’t a critical need to rush to your gyno if you think you might have a yeast infection. Tests like Monistat’s Vaginal Health Test are sold over the counter, and they check your vaginal pH to help you distinguish whether something’s a yeast or bacterial infection. So if you have the classic symptoms — fishy odor, abnormal discharge, and/or itching or burning — use the strip test to check your vagina’s acidity level. If it comes back normal after 10 seconds, it’s likely a yeast infection, so grab an anti-fungal cream for treatment. If not, it could be a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics and a chat with your ob-gyn, like bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis. “Either way, taking the test helps clear the infection sooner because you’re not wasting any time on a treatment that won’t work for the specific type of infection that you have,” says Masterson.

5. They’re not chronic.

To the 67 percent of women who think yeast infections can never be cured, take a deep sigh of relief: Just because you get one doesn’t mean you’re doomed for the rest of your life. “Each case is individual, and you can cure each one,” explains Masterson. “It does not increase your risk of getting more down the road. So you just take the proper treatment, wait a full week — which is how long it takes to cure a yeast infection, even if you only need to treat symptoms for one day — and then it’s gone for good.”

6. You’ll probably get more after having babies.

Sorry, moms, but Masterson says you’re more likely to get a yeast infection after you’ve had children. In fact, many women don’t experience their first one until they’re either pregnant or have just had children because of the hormonal shift that occurs. “The hormone prolactin, which lets down milk and helps with breastfeeding, encourages other hormones to stick around, and it can cause the pH imbalance,” she explains. “It can even stop your periods and make your body feel like it’s almost in a menopausal state; menopausal women have an increased risk of yeast infections as well.”

7. Just because you don’t have symptoms doesn’t mean you don’t have an infection.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), not every woman experiences the usual itching, burning, weird discharge symptoms right away. In fact, if you’re not super sensitive, you may not realize you have one at all. “Some women will come in for their regular Pap smear and I’ll notice a colonization of yeast, and it’s the first time they’re even thinking about it,” says Masterson. “It depends on the sensitivity of the person. For one woman who’s really sensitive, a small colonization can cause a lot of itching and burning. For another, it takes a larger buildup of yeast to cause those symptoms.” That said, it’s not a big deal if you don’t treat it right away, she explains. So long as you’re not experiencing symptoms that are causing you to be uncomfortable, it’s okay if it’s treated later.

8. Too much sugar can up your risk.

Wait, your sweet tooth may be causing issues with your — vagina? Actually, yes. Yeast thrives on sugar, so eating too much of it may increase your chance of developing the obnoxious infection, says Laurie Birkholz, M.D., a doctor specializing in women’s health in Holland, MI. If it seems like you’re always getting another yeast infection, you may want to monitor your diet and skip out on too much of the sugary stuff.

9. Yes, your partner can catch it from you.

Not only can sex hurt (because vaginal tissue is already sensitive and irritated), a yeast infection can be passed on to your partner, Birkholz says. While it’s not considered an STD, as previously mentioned, having unprotected sex while you’re dealing with an infection can lead to an itchy rash on your guy’s penis. Uh, ouch. That, plus the fact that getting it on, may delay the amount of time it takes you to heal (sex can cause the medical cream you’re using to pull a disappearing act), so you may want to wait until you’ve been treating your infection for a few days before engaging in anything hot and heavy.

10. Your gym clothes may be to blame.

If your post-workout routine involves collapsing on the couch — because, hello, you just killed that spin class, so you can be lazy forever, right? — you might want to think again. “Lounging around in sweaty clothing creates an environment that’s conducive to yeast growth,” Birkholz says. “It’s best to change out of your workout gear and put on dry clothes as soon as you’re done at the gym.” That’s an easy way to prevent trouble.

11. Cranberry juice might be doing more harm than good.

Cranberry juice has been long known to help get rid of yeast infections, but it can also cause the problem in the first place. According to the Mayo Clinic, the juice might help cure a yeast infection — but when consumed on a regular basis, it might also cause them to keep reoccurring. So drink up, but stick to water as your go-to beverage.

12. Using perfumed feminine products and laundry detergent can case them.

You might think using scented soaps, douching, and washing your laundry — delicates, in particular — is good for your nether regions, but that’s not the case, says the Cleveland Clinic. Since your vagina is sensitive, using perfumed or heavily-scented products might actually be the reason your yeast infection showed up. Instead, stay nice and fresh with a mild soap (like Summer’s Eve Feminine Wash for Sensitive Skin, $13; and grab some fragrance-free detergent when it comes time to wash your underwear.

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White blood cells play an important role in your body’s immune system, searching the blood for invading viruses, bacteria, and fungi. When a foreign virus or bacteria enters your blood, the white blood cell, or leukocyte, recognizes and destroys the invading particle before it can cause disease. There are several different types of white blood cells, each with their own function. Some directly destroy the foreign bacteria, while others attack cells that are infected by viruses. Other types of white blood cells can even play a role in allergic reactions!

What happens when you have elevated white blood cells?

Since white blood cells fight off infection, people tend to think that elevated levels are actually beneficial. This is not necessarily the case! A high white blood cell count isn’t a specific disease, but it can indicate another problem, such as infection, stress, inflammation, trauma, allergy, or certain diseases. That’s why a high white blood cell count usually requires further investigation. The InsideTracker blood analysis measures your white blood cell count, and will tell you whether it is in the optimal zone for you. If your white blood cell count is elevated, you should speak with your doctor.

In addition to your total white blood cell count, InsideTracker also measures the different types of white blood cells, which can give clues as to what may be causing the elevated white blood cell count. The types of white blood cells include: neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils and basophils. Neutrophils, which account for about 70% of white blood cells, can increase in response to bacterial infections as well as to physical or emotional stress. A high lymphocyte count may occur when there is a viral or bacterial infection. Increased monocytes can indicate chronic inflammation. Elevated levels of basophils and eosinophils may occur when there is an allergic response or in cases of a parasitic infection.

What are the symptoms of elevated white blood cell count?

The only way to truly determine if your levels are too high is to get your blood tested, by your physician’s office or through InsideTracker. People with high (above normal) white blood cell count, a condition called leukocytosis, typically don’t have any specific symptoms, but may have a medical condition that is responsible for raising white blood cell levels. The specific number for high (above normal) white blood cell count varies from one lab testing facility to another, but a general rule of thumb is that a count of more than 10,500 leukocytes in a microliter of blood in adults is generally considered to be high, while 4,500-10,500 is considered within the normal range. Since a high (above normal) white blood cell count can be a symptom of another underlying problem, you might experience symptoms that are associated with that condition. However, people with leukocytosis may also experience a combination of these symptoms: fever, fainting, bleeding, bruising, weight loss, and general pain.

What are the causes of elevated white blood cell count?

There are a few reasons why you might have high (above normal) white blood cell count:

Infection – as infection-causing bacteria or viruses multiply in the blood, your bone marrow produces more white blood cells to fight off the infection. Infection can also lead to inflammation, which can in turn cause the number of white blood cells to increase.

Smoking or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – essentially, COPD means that you have a lung and airway disease like emphysema or chronic bronchitis that blocks proper airflow. It is commonly caused by cigarette smoking, which results in inflammation in the lungs and air passages. As you gain more inflammation in your lungs and airways, your body will produce more white blood cells to fight it off.

Leukemia – leukemia is a type of cancer that dramatically increases your number of white blood cells. Leukemic white blood cells are often non-functional, which may increase the risk of infection in these cancer patients.

Immune system disorders – some auto-immune disorders like Crohn’s or Graves’ disease can elevate your white blood cell levels. If you have one of these conditions, your doctor should monitor your white blood cell levels.

Stress – finally, emotional or physical stress can also cause elevated white blood cell counts. The good news is that white blood cell levels will return to normal after the stress is gone.

How does exercise affect your white blood cell count?

If you got your blood tested right after working out, you might not have to worry—your body actually increases your white blood cell count during exercise! In fact, this increase in the activity of your white blood cells might actually allow your body to identify disease-causing organisms more rapidly than under normal circumstances, which is yet another benefit of exercise. Immediately after exercise, your levels of white blood cells increase in proportion to the intensity and duration of the workout. One study showed that runners’ white blood cell levels triple during a marathon. Since the amount of white blood cells then drops to its normal level after exercise, you should ideally wait one day after a heavy workout session to get your blood tested.

What types of foods will help to decrease your elevated white blood cell count?

What you eat also has an effect on your white blood cell count. To keep your levels in check, avoid eating foods that are high in fat, calories, sugar, and salt (such as fast foods). Aim for foods that are high in antioxidants like vitamins C and E, fiber, calcium, fish oils, mono-unsaturated fats, and low on the glycemic index. Your InsideTracker Plan will give you recommendations for a variety of foods that satisfy your preferences and provide you with the nutrients you need. Some foods that have been shown to have an effect on lowering inflammation include garlic, grapes, herbs and spices, soy protein, nuts, olive oil, black and green teas, and vinegar. Aim to eat at least six servings of fruits and vegetables per day, which will benefit much more than your white blood cell levels. Other specific nutrients to increase in your diet include:

Omega-3 fatty acids – omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat (or PUFA) that is known to increase heart health and elevate the activity of phagocytes, a type of white blood cells that protect you from foreign bacteria. Omega-3 PUFAs are found mainly in fatty fish like trout, herring, and salmon, but also in walnuts and flaxseed. Studies have shown that PUFAs significantly increased white blood cell counts in women on a controlled diet.

Antioxidants – Antioxidants are a type of a molecule that protects our cells against harmful molecules called free radicals, which damage cells, protein, and DNA (for instance, free radicals cause peeled apples to turn brown). Eating more phytochemicals helps protect against this type of damage. Phytochemicals with antioxidant capacity include allyl sulfides (found in onions, leeks, and garlic), carotenoids (in fruits and carrots), flavonoids (fruits and vegetables), and polyphenols (in tea and grapes). While they don’t specifically work to increase white blood cell count, they help to support a healthy immune system.

Vitamin C – Vitamin C helps the body to produce more white blood cells, which in turn helps the body to fight infections. All citrus fruits—including oranges, lemons, and limes—contain vitamin C. You can also get vitamin C from other fruits, such as berries, papayas, pineapples and guavas, and vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and bell peppers.

In addition to these nutrients, you may want to invest in some non-alcoholic beer! Believe it or not, one study showed that drinking 1 to 1.5 liters of non-alcoholic beer for 3 weeks before and 2 weeks after running a marathon helps to reduce both inflammation and white blood cell count!

Whether or not you are an athlete, use InsideTracker to find out your white blood cell levels so you can optimize your performance and your overall well-being by taking the proper action if you find out they’re too high! Don’t forget to view the free InsideTracker demo here!

Some other blog posts we think you’ll love:

  • Tired of Being Tired: How I Optimized My Iron Levels
  • Getting Back on Track: Laura Ingalls’ InsideTracker-Fueled Journey Back to Holistic Health
  • Avoiding The Crash: How Monitoring Iron Levels Can Save Your Season
  • Stress Fractures: The Relationship Between Biochemistry, Nutritional Screening and Biomechanics

White Blood Cell Count

  1. What is a white blood cell (WBC) count?
  2. White blood cells (WBCs)
  3. Low white blood cell (WBC) count
  4. High white blood cell (WBC) count
  5. Normal white blood cell (WBC) count
  6. Test procedure
  7. FAQs

What is a white blood cell (WBC) count?

Healthy blood contains a certain percentage of white blood cells (WBCs, leukocytes or leucocytes) which, as part of the body’s immune system, help the body fight infection. A white blood cell (WBC) count measures the amount of white blood cells in a sample of a person’s blood. The number of white blood cells in the body differs between individuals or at different ages in their lives. The normal range for a white blood cell count in a healthy adult is between 4,000 and 11,000 WBCs per microliter (μl or mcL) or cubic millimeter (mm3) of blood, though this may differ between males and females, and healthy children and young people usually have more.

To measure the number of white blood cells in a person’s body, a doctor will order a white blood cell count, often as part of a complete blood count (CBC) test. A low white blood cell count can indicate conditions including infections, inflammation, certain cancers, HIV/AIDS, and others, making it an important diagnostic test. Aside from these conditions, a person’s white blood cell count can indicate their immune system activity, response to cancer treatment and overall health.

White blood cells (WBCs)

There are several kinds of white blood cells (WBCs), including neutrophils, eosinophils, lymphocytes, monocytes and basophils. Each variety plays a different role in protecting the body from foreign pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. White blood cells also defend the body from allergens, mutated cells, such as cancer, and foreign matter, such as splinters, and remove dead cells, old red blood cells and other debris.

A white blood cell count checks both the overall levels of white blood cells in the blood, as well as the overall proportion of different types of white blood cells.

Low white blood cell (WBC) count

The threshold for a low white blood cell count (leukopenia) varies between individuals and cases, but is generally considered to be anything lower than 4,000 white blood cells per μl of blood in an adult. A low white blood cell count can be caused by issues including:

  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Diminished bone marrow function
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune disorders including rheumatoid arthritis and HIV/AIDS
  • Leukemia
  • Lupus
  • Tuberculosis
  • Cancer treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy, as well as other medications
  • Aplastic anemia

A low white blood cell count may cause symptoms such as fever, chills, headache and bodyache.

If you are experiencing symptoms that may be related to a low white blood cell count or one of the underlying conditions associated with it, begin your personal health assessment with the Ada app now.

High white blood cell (WBC) count

Though it varies between individuals, a high white blood cell count (leukocytosis) is usually considered to be anything above 11,000 cells per μl of blood in an adult. This can be related to:

  • Infection
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Medications
  • Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Leukemia
  • Allergies
  • Tuberculosis
  • Whooping cough
  • Myelofibrosis
  • Stress
  • Smoking

In most instances, there are no specific symptoms related to an elevated white blood cell count, though symptoms associated with the underlying medical condition may occur. However, in extreme cases, such as when leukocytosis occurs because of a condition affecting the bone marrow, symptoms directly related to an elevated white blood cell count may occur.

If you are experiencing symptoms that may be related to a high white blood cell count or one of the underlying conditions associated with it, begin your personal health assessment with the Ada app now.

High white blood cell count during pregnancy

Typically, white blood cell count is elevated during pregnancy, with the lower limit of the reference range being around 6,000 cells per μl and the upper limit around 17,000 cells per μl. The stress imposed on the body through pregnancy causes this rise in white blood cells.

During delivery and in the hours that follow, the white blood cell count range can be anywhere between 9,000 and 25,000 white blood cells per μl of blood. The white blood cell count will typically return to normal around four-weeks after delivery.

Read more about Pregnancy and Pregnancy Complications “

Normal white blood cell (WBC) count

A normal white blood cell count is a reading that falls within a range established through the testing of men, women and children of all ages. Although it is possible to cite general values, exact ranges tend to differ between labs and countries.

For men, a normal white blood cell count is anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 white blood cells per μl of blood. For women, it is a reading of between 4,500 and 11,000 per μl, and for children between 5,000 and 10,000. Not all sources, however, differentiate between male and female values; of these sources, values for both sexes tend to lie in the range between 4,000 to 4,500 and 10,000 to 11,000 cells per μl.

Test procedure

To carry out a white blood cell count, a doctor will draw a blood sample, usually from a vein in the arm or the back of the hand. This is a common procedure, and side effects are rare, but may include lightheadedness, bleeding or infection. No special preparation is required for a white blood cell count, but a person should inform their doctor of any medications they are taking, as these can affect the results. A white blood cell count is usually taken as part of a complete blood count.

Read more about a complete blood count “

White blood cell count FAQs

Q: What is a healthy white blood cell (WBC) count?
A: For an adult, a healthy WBC count is considered to be between 4,000 and 11,000 WBCs per microliter of blood. This is on average – some healthy individuals may have a higher or lower count.

Q: What is leukocytosis?
A: Leukocytosis is the condition of having an abnormally high WBC count. In most cases, an elevated WBC count will result in no symptoms, though symptoms associated with the underlying condition causing the high WBC count may occur. In extreme cases, such as when leukocytosis occurs because of a bone marrow disorder, symptoms directly related to an elevated WBC count may occur. Feeling unwell? Get a free symptom assessment with the Ada app.

Q: What is hematology?
A: Hematology (alternatively spelled haematology) is the branch of medicine concerned with blood and the various disorders and conditions involving blood. This includes the study of problems with white blood cells (WBCs), red blood cells (RBCs), bone marrow and platelets, which may include conditions such as anemia, leukemia, myeloproliferative disorders and neutropenia.

Q: Are there any types of cancer associated with white blood cells (WBCs)?
A: Yes, there are two main types of cancer associated with WBCs: leukemia and lymphoma. Leukemia is a cancer found in the blood and bone marrow which is caused by the rapid production of abnormal WBCs. These abnormal cells impair the body’s ability to fight infection, as well as the ability of bone marrow to produce platelets and red blood cells. There are four main types of leukemia: acute myeloid, chronic myeloid, acute lymphocytic and chronic lymphocytic. Lymphoma, the second type of cancer involving WBCs, occurs when lymphocytes (small leukocytes that are part of the immune system) behave abnormally and collect in certain areas of the body. Lymphocytes can collect anywhere in the body, most commonly in the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits and groin. Treatment options are available for both types of cancer.

Q: What is the relationship between bone marrow and white blood cells (WBCs)?
A: Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside the bones. It contains stem cells which can develop into WBCs, RBCs and platelets.

  1. “Health Library: Facts About Blood.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed: 16 September, 2017. ↩ ↩

  2. “Low White Blood Cell Count.” Mayo Clinic. Accessed: 16 September, 2017. ↩

  3. “High White Blood Cell Count.” Mayo Clinic. Accessed: 16 September, 2017. ↩

  4. “Blood Disorders.” American Society of Hematolog. Accessed: 3 May, 2018. ↩ ↩

  5. NCBI. “Pregnancy and laboratory studies: a reference table for clinicians.” December 2009. Accessed August 6, 2018. ↩

  6. NCBI. “Physiological Changes in Hematological Parameters During Pregnancy.” July 15, 2012. Accessed July 25, 2018. ↩ ↩

  7. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “Understanding Blood Counts.” Accessed July 25, 2018. ↩

  8. Medscape. “Leukocyte Count (WBC).” September 15, 2015. ↩

  9. “Blood Cancers.” American Society of Hematology. Accessed: 3 May, 2018. ↩

  10. “Bone Marrow Diseases.” Medline Plus. Accessed: May 3, 2018. ↩ ↩

In This Section

  • Vaginitis
  • How do I get checked and treated for vaginitis?
  • How do I prevent vaginitis?
  • What is a yeast infection?
  • What is bacterial vaginosis?

Most healthy vaginas have yeast. But sometimes your yeast grows too much and leads to an infection. Yeast infections can be very irritating and uncomfortable.

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Think you may have a yeast infection?

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What causes yeast infections?

A vaginal yeast infection, which is also sometimes called vulvovaginal candidiasis, happens when the healthy yeast that normally lives in your vagina grows out of control. It often leads to itching and other irritating symptoms. The medical name for a yeast infection is “candidiasis,” because they’re usually caused by a type of yeast called candida.

If your vaginal chemistry gets thrown off balance, the normal yeast that live in your vagina can grow too much and lead to an infection. Some things that can cause changes in your vagina’s environment are:

  • normal changes in hormone levels (like during your menstrual cycle)

  • antibiotics, cortisone, and other drugs

  • pregnancy

  • diabetes

  • a weak immune system

  • a natural reaction to another person’s genital chemistry

Yeast infections can happen on penises and scrotums too, but it’s not as common. They can cause redness and irritation on your penis or scrotum.

Yeast infections aren’t an STD. They aren’t contagious, and can’t spread to another person during sex. But sexual contact sometimes leads to yeast infections — your body chemistry can have a bad reaction to another person’s natural genital yeast and bacteria, which causes yeast to grow.

People can also get a yeast infection on their mouth, throat, or tongue — that’s called “thrush.”

What are yeast infection symptoms?

Yeast infections often cause thick, white, clumpy vaginal discharge that usually doesn’t smell (or only smells slightly different than normal). You might also have a creamy, whitish coating in and around your vagina.

Most yeast infections lead to itching, burning, and/or redness in or around the vagina. Vaginal itching usually gets worse the longer you have the infection. Sex may be uncomfortable or painful. In extreme cases, you can get fissures or sores on your vagina or vulva. If you have lots of irritation, it may sting when you pee.

How do I treat yeast infections?

Yeast infections can usually be cured easily in a few days with anti-fungal medicine. You can get medicated creams or suppositories for yeast infections (like Monistat and other brands) at a drugstore, over-the-counter without a prescription.

Make sure you follow the directions and use all of the medicine, even if your symptoms go away before you finish. You can also treat yeast infections with a single pill that you swallow (called Diflucan or Fluconazole). You need a prescription from your doctor to get the yeast infection pill.

Don’t have vaginal or oral sex, or put anything into your vagina, until you’ve finished treatment and your infection goes away. Friction from sex can cause more irritation or make it harder to heal. And some medicines that you use in your vagina have oil in them, which can cause condoms to break.

Even though yeast infections can be really itchy, try not to scratch. It can make irritation worse or cause cuts in your skin, which can spread germs and lead to more infection. There are over-the-counter creams that you can use on your vulva to help calm the irritation. Your doctor can also give you tips on relieving burning and itching.

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What are Yeast Infections?

Superficial Infections

Skin and groin infections can be cured or controlled with good clean habits. Frequent bathing and washing/changing your clothes are recommended, especially during hot weather or after sweating.

  • For most people a superficial infection like jock itch can be controlled with antifungal creams that can be put on the skin. These creams are available as OTC drugs. They have many names such as butoconazole, clotrimazole, miconazole and terconazole. For long-term infections you may need a stronger drug such as nystatin, or drugs taken by mouth such as fluconazole or Lamisil®.
  • Most vaginal infections can be treated with vaginal suppositories or creams. For an ongoing infection, drugs taken by mouth such as fluconazole or ketoconazole can help. For vaginal infections that last a long time or come back, you may need to change your type of birth control.
  • If an infection of the head of the penis on an uncircumcised male does not do well with creams put on the skin, then circumcision may be needed.
  • For urinary fungal infections, in about a third of cases removing or changing a catheter will get rid of the infection. Flushing the bladder with antifungal drugs (amphotericin B) or taking systemic medication (oral or IV fluconazole, or IV amphotericin B) will work well in 60% of patients.

Invasive Infections

Invasive yeast infections call for systemic antifungal therapy (that works on the whole body) like amphotericin B, fluconazole, itraconazole and caspofungin, as well as newer drugs related to fluconazole (posaconazole).

Role of Food and Herbal Cures

Experts are not sure about the role of one’s diet or how herbal remedies could help. But they do know that people with high blood sugar are more likely to get these infections. So many suggest that if you have high blood sugar, you should skip high carbohydrate foods. Also, yogurt can be a source of helpful bacterial for the genitourinary tract, so many recommend it to help stop or treat yeast infections.

Download Clue to track your discharge and fluids.

Top things to know

  • Yeast is commonly found in the vagina, but when it overgrows it can cause a yeast infection

  • Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection often include itching and abnormal discharge that is typically thick and white

  • Vaginal yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription medications

What is a yeast infection?

Yeast is a single-celled microorganism which can live in the vagina. Yeast is found in the vaginas of most people at some point in their lives, and also lives on the skin, in the mouth, and intestines (1).

Yeast can be present in the vagina and cause no problem or symptoms, but occasionally it overgrows and invades the vaginal tissue, leading to a yeast infection (2). Vaginal yeast infections are called vulvovaginal candidiasis because Candida is the species of yeast that causes almost all vaginal yeast infections (3).

It is often reported that 3 in 4 women will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime and 1 in 2 will have more than one. Data, though, is actually lacking to determine the true rate of vaginal yeast infections (4). It’s difficult to determine exactly how prevalent they are because it is commonly self-diagnosed and treated with over-the-counter medications (2).

Yeast infection symptoms

The most common symptoms of a yeast infection are:

  • Burning or itching of the vulva and/or the vagina

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge (5)

  • Thick, white discharge, like cottage cheese (5).

  • Burning during urination

  • Pain during sex (2)

The discomfort caused by a yeast infection can range from mild to severe, and can impact a person’s ability to go about their daily life.

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What causes a yeast infection?

It’s often impossible to pinpoint the reason someone gets a yeast infection. But there are some things that may increase the chance of developing a yeast infection, including pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes, taking estrogen, and being in an immunocompromised state due to something like HIV or cancer (2,5).

Using antibiotics, oral contraceptive pills, and IUDs may increase the risk of getting a yeast infection for some people but not in others (5). Some studies suggest that the use of pads and tampons, or wearing tight synthetic clothing increases the risk for yeast infections, while other studies suggest there is no link between these and yeast infections (2,5).

Yeast infections are not considered to be sexually transmitted—someone can get a yeast infection without ever having had sex— but frequent and recent penis-in-vagina or oral-vulva sex may increase the risk of getting a yeast infection (5). A sex partner of someone diagnosed with a yeast infection does not need to be treated, unless they are experiencing symptoms of a yeast infection themself (6).

How is a yeast infection diagnosed?

Many people may self-diagnose a yeast infection when they are experiencing symptoms. One small study showed that among women who believed they had a yeast infection, only 1 out of 3 of them actually had one, and women who had been diagnosed in the past by a healthcare provider weren’t any better at correctly making the diagnosis (7).

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The symptoms of a yeast infection can be similar to other common vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis, so talking to a healthcare provider is a good idea to make sure the proper treatment is provided.

To diagnose a yeast infection, a healthcare provider will ask about symptoms and do a pelvic exam. They will examine the vulva (external genitalia) and may perform a speculum exam to examine the inside walls of the vagina. They will look to see if the vulva or vagina appear red, swollen, or if any discharge is present (6). They may swab the inside of the vagina and either send it to a lab or look under a microscope to determine if yeast is present (6).

How is a yeast infection treated?

Treating a yeast infection is usually simple and straightforward with over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medication.

Someone who is experiencing symptoms of a yeast infection can try an over-the-counter vaginal cream or suppository, such as:

  • clotrimazole

  • miconazole

  • tioconazole (6).

These medications are used vaginally for 1-7 days.

If the symptoms don’t go away after treatment, it may be a different kind of infection and should be checked by a healthcare provider. The prescription medication, fluconazole, is a single pill that is taken by mouth (6). While the pill is less messy, the creams start relieving symptoms faster. It’s important to know that the creams may weaken latex condoms, causing them to break. Both the vaginal and oral treatments have similar cure rates— around 80-90% (6,8).

Alternative yeast infection treatments

There are alternative approaches to treating a yeast infection.

Boric acid capsules used vaginally for 2 weeks are about 70% effective at curing a yeast infection, but can cause irritation (6,9).

The use of probiotics in the vagina or by mouth along with using an antifungal medication may slightly increase the chance of curing a yeast infection, compared to using an antifungal medication alone (10).

Tea tree oil and garlic both have antifungal properties, but there is not enough research to show that they are effective at treating a yeast infection (9,11).

Consuming yogurt also lacks enough research to say whether it is helpful in fighting yeast, but it’s unlikely to be harmful (9,11).

Douching is not effective for treating yeast, and can actually increase the risk of getting STIs, HIV, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and other vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis (9,11,12).

After yeast infection treatment

It can take 1-2 days before someone feels relief from their symptoms. In the meantime, wearing loose fitting clothing and trying to stay cool may help soothe the itch and discomfort. Avoid scratching, because this can cause breaks in the skin which can become infected. It’s best to not have sex until a yeast infection is gone because sex can cause more discomfort, and the vaginal creams and suppositories may weaken latex condoms.

Article was originally published July 26, 2018

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