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How Do I Know if I Have a Yeast Infection?

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How Do I Know if I Have a Yeast Infection?

writtenByWritten by: Laurel Klafehn
Laurel Klafehn

Laurel Klafehn

Laurel is a linguist at heart and studying to become a Certified Spanish Interpreter and Translator. She believes in making quality healthcare accessible, and is proud of PlushCare's mission to do so.

Read more posts by this author.

October 24, 2021 Read Time - 11 minutes

How Do I Know If I Have a Yeast Infection?

Any discomfort or pain in more sensitive parts of your body can be cause for concern. One of the most common problems that women encounter is a yeast infection. Even men can suffer from a yeast infection. Understanding how to prevent, identify, and treat a yeast infection will help you maintain your health and help you start feeling normal again.

What Is a Yeast Infection?

A yeast infection, also known as candida vulvovaginitis, is a common infection. Yeast infections most commonly refer to vaginal infections, but can also occur in other places in your body, such as your mouth or armpits. For the purposes of this article, we’ll stick to vaginal yeast infections.

Yeast infections are relatively common, and 3 out of every 4 women will experience a yeast infection throughout their lives. Yeast infections are not considered sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but can develop for a variety of reasons. 

Every woman’s vagina has a delicate balance of live bacteria and yeast cells. When this balance is thrown off, yeast cells can multiply, which often leads to a yeast infection. 

Yeast infections can develop due to several factors, including:

  • Lifestyle habits
  • Environmental changes
  • Skin-to-skin contact with someone that has a yeast infection
  • Health conditions, such as diabetes
  • Cyclical changes in a woman’s body.

The most common bacteria found in a healthy vagina are Lactobacillus acidophilus, which help keep yeast levels in check. These bacteria moderate the growth of yeast cells and help susceptible parts of your body fight off infection. You will most likely notice when this balance is thrown off because overproduction of yeast can cause an array of uncomfortable symptoms.

If you find yourself asking, “Do I have a yeast infection?”, read through the identifiers below to get a better idea.

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Yeast Infection Symptoms

The following are the most common symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection:

  • Persistent itchiness
  • Pain during urination
  • Stinging sensations in the vagina or vulva
  • Pain during intercourse

What Does a Vaginal Yeast Infection Look Like?

  • Thick, lumpy vaginal discharge
  • Redness in the vagina and vulva
  • Swelling of the labia and vulva

It is important to note that the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are like those of other STIs and genital infections. To be sure that you are experiencing a yeast infection, you should contact your doctor. 

Treatment for yeast infections are relatively straightforward, but by self-treating, you may inadvertently make the problem worse. A PlushCare doctor can help advise you by phone or video chat on which steps to take (an online doctor can prescribe medication if you qualify).

Which Symptoms May NOT Be Associated With a Vaginal Yeast Infection?

The following symptoms may be indicative of a different, potentially more serious problem. Contact your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms

  • Vaginal discharge with a sour, pungent odor – Vaginal discharge may indicate a sexually transmitted infection or disease, such as herpes and trichomoniasis.
  • Itching near your anus – Itching may be a sign of hemorrhoids or other genital infection.
  • Blood in your stool/near your vulva – Blood may also be a symptom of hemorrhoids. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience bleeding.
  • Fishy, white or gray discharge – A strong odor associated with thin white or grey discharge could indicate bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection of the vagina.
  • Prolonged itchiness associated with use of a new hygiene product or detergent – Allergic reactions to ingredients in soaps or detergents could cause itchiness in the vaginal area. Changing your hygiene regimen may relieve these symptoms.

“Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms,” recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ”These symptoms are similar to those of other types of vaginal infections, which are treated with different types of medicines. A healthcare provider can tell you if you have vaginal candidiasis and how to treat it.”

Normal Vaginal Discharge vs. Yeast Infection Discharge

The amount, color, and consistency of normal vaginal discharge varies from vagina to vagina. Normal vaginal discharge can be clear, thick, watery, sticky, or smooth. Sometimes, vaginal discharge might have a scent, or it might be odorless. In addition, the consistency of discharge can change throughout your menstrual cycle.

If you notice any changes in the color, consistency, or odor of your vaginal discharge, this might be a sign of a vaginal infection. Vaginal discharge will look noticeably different when you have a yeast infection, with most women experiencing a cottage cheese-like discharge. Contact your doctor if you notice any changes or other yeast infection symptoms.

What Causes Yeast Infection?

Yeast infections can develop due to several factors, including lifestyle choices, cyclical changes in a woman’s body, and pre-existing medical conditions.

To better answer the question “Do I have a yeast infection?”, it is helpful to understand some of the many ways a yeast infection can develop. Some common yeast infection causes include:

Lifestyle Choices That May Cause a Yeast Infection

  • Poor eating habits – A healthy diet will help protect your body against infection, while changes in your diet may weaken your body’s defenses.
  • Immense stress – Stress can change the balance of your body’s chemistry, which can lead to surprising and uncomfortable physiological changes.
  • Tight clothing/new clothing detergent – Wearing tight clothing, especially pants and underwear, can restrict airflow to your vagina. Yeast thrives in warm, moist, protected areas. If you find that tight clothing leads to itchiness or discomfort in your genital area, consider wearing more breathable fabrics. New brands of detergent may irritate the sensitive skin in contact with your clothing. If the problem coincides with switching to a new detergent, consider trying a different brand.
  • Lack of sleep – A lack of sleep can throw off various functions of your body. In conjunction with other lifestyle changes, a lack of sleep can lead to bacterial imbalances.
  • Taking baths – Taking frequent baths can cause yeast infections because they provide a warm, moist environment for yeast. Try switching to showers some of the time if you find that baths irritate your vaginal area.
  • Douching – Because douching disrupts the balance of bacteria and yeast in and around the vaginal area, this may cause yeast infections.
  • Taking birth control/hormone treatment pills – As your body adjusts to a new regimen of contraceptives or hormone treatment, you may experience yeast infections. With treatment and after adapting to the introduction of hormones, these symptoms should go away.
  • Sexual activity – Many women report getting a yeast infection after sex. If you can, it’s best to clean your genitals after sex to get rid of any harmful bacteria. Although not usually as frequently as females, genital yeast infections can also be developed by men. In these cases, sexual contact can transmit a yeast infection from one person to another. Be honest with your partner if you have a yeast infection to avoid spreading the infection.
  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Pre-Existing Medical Conditions That May Cause a Yeast Infection

  • Diabetes – A 2014 study found a connection between women with type 2 diabetes and a likelihood of developing vaginal yeast infections. The study hypothesizes that because yeast feeds off of sugars, an increase in blood sugar levels would also signal an increase in yeast, especially in the vaginal region. The overproduction of yeast in these cases often led to yeast infections.
  • HIV – Women who have HIV may experience more frequent yeast infections because of their weakened immune systems.

Cyclical Changes That May Cause a Yeast Infection

  • Menopause – Hormonal changes in a woman’s body can throw off the delicate balance between bacteria and yeast. With a drop in estrogen, the skin of your vulva and vagina becomes thinner and weaker. These changes make the skin more sensitive, and any irritation can provide breeding ground for bacteria and yeast.
  • Pregnancy – Conversely, high estrogen levels associated with yeast infections occur most frequently during pregnancy. These changes in estrogen levels (compounded with lifestyle changes, such as sleep and diet) can weaken the immune system and stimulate the growth of yeast.
  • Menstruation Some women report yeast infections during a certain phase of their menstrual cycle. Hormonal fluctuations are usually to blame. Contact your doctor if your yeast infection symptoms persist or worsen.

Treatments for Yeast Infections

Treatments for vaginal yeast infections are easy to access. With proper use, yeast infection treatments will quickly relieve uncomfortable symptoms. In more severe cases of infection, your doctor may recommend an extended plan of treatment or lifestyle change. This information will help you understand your treatment options if you have a yeast infection.

If you have had yeast infections in the past and feel comfortable identifying the problem when it persists, you can use over-the-counter (OTC) treatment options to get rid of the infection. However, you should consult your doctor every time to ensure your symptoms are not actually indicative of a different, potentially serious problem.

If you are pregnant, you should always consult your doctor with any issues you experience.

OTC Treatment Options

  • Non-prescription vaginal creams and suppositories Common brands are Monistat, Vagisil, and AZO Yeast, which contain ingredients designed to kill yeast upon contact. (Refrain from using condoms as a main form of birth control while on these such regimens, as the ingredients may also weaken latex). Creams are applied topically, while suppositories are inserted into the vagina, where they dissolve. These medicines can be purchased at any drug store and come in a variety of strengths to lengthen or shorten a treatment period.

Prescription Treatment Options

  • Prescription antifungal pills Antifungal pills such as Diflucan are only available with a prescription, but only require one pill to kill most yeast infections. For persistent yeast infections, your doctor may recommend using this method.

Home Treatment Options

Many women prefer to use home remedies to get rid of yeast infections, especially if they have had a yeast infection before. Consult your doctor before you decide to go this route. Home remedies typically revolve around a common antifungal property. Some examples of home remedies include:

  • Oil of oregano – Oil of oregano has strong antifungal powers and is taken orally (in a carrier oil, or highly diluted—NEVER in essential oil form) to ward off yeast infections.
  • Coconut oil – The gentle, yet powerful antifungal properties of coconut oil can be used topically to treat yeast infections.
  • Apple cider vinegar – Apple cider vinegar can be taken orally to strengthen your immune system. For yeast infections, try taking a warm bath with half of a cup of apple cider vinegar dissolved in the water.
  • Plain Greek yogurt – Greek yogurt that is free of added sugar can be used topically to stimulate the growth of bacteria which will fend off yeast. Using yogurt with added sugar will usually make the problem worse.

Why Antibiotics May Not Be Right

Oftentimes, when we hear the word “infection,” we assume that antibiotics will remedy the problem. In the case of some infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, this is true. However, antibiotics for yeast infections will kill off healthy bacteria and continue to stimulate the growth of yeast. 

Taking antibiotics could exacerbate your symptoms, which can turn a yeast infection into a more serious health issue. Moreover, “​​because taking antibiotics can lead to vaginal candidiasis, take these medicines only when prescribed and exactly as your healthcare provider tells you,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Consult your doctor to find out if antibiotics are the right course of treatment for you. Your doctor can help you determine what is a yeast infection and what could be a different, more serious problem.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

How PlushCare Works

In today’s age of unpredictable waiting rooms and swamped doctors, online services such as PlushCare save you time and stress. All our visits with patients are confidential and convenient and require as little as a phone or video consultation. This can be helpful for addressing personal health problems, especially when they are of a sensitive nature.

Our team of doctors has extensive experience consulting with patients about their treatment options, including both over the counter and prescription medicines if you qualify, and can help you understand which method is right for you. Click here to book an appointment with a PlushCare doctor today.


Read More About Yeast Infections


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Medline Plus. Yeast Infections. Accessed on January 29, 2021 at https://medlineplus.gov/yeastinfections.html

Mayo Clinic. Yeast Infections. Accessed on January 29, 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/yeast-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20378999

CDC. Yeast Infections. Accessed on January 29, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/genital/index.html

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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