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Laurel Klafehn

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About Author — 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.

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Symptoms of Yeast Infection in Women

A yeast infection is one of the most common infections that Americans experience. While a vaginal yeast infection is the most common and widely-known, yeast infections in women can also occur in other places in the human body, such as the mouth or armpits. Men can also experience yeast infections, but usually less frequently than their female counterparts. For the purposes of this article, we’ll explore yeast infections in women.

A vaginal yeast infection, also known as candida vulvovaginitis, is a common infection that 3 out of every 4 women will experience throughout their lives. About every 2 out of 4 women will experience more than one yeast infection. Yeast infections are not considered Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and can develop for a variety of reasons. Vaginal yeast infection symptoms can be irritating and uncomfortable, but will usually go away with proper treatment and attention.

Yeast Infections in Women

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 leads to a yeast infection in women’s vaginas and vulva. The most common bacteria found in a healthy vagina are Lactobacillus acidophilus and 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.

Yeast infections can develop because of lifestyle habits, environmental changes, skin-to-skin contact with someone that has a yeast infection, health conditions such as diabetes, and even other cyclical changes in a woman’s body. Because of this variety of causes, symptoms of yeast infection in women can vary. It is important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor to make sure that what you are experiencing is a yeast infection and not a more serious issue.


Symptoms of Yeast Infection in Women

The following are the most common signs of yeast infection in women:

  • Persistent itchiness
  • Thick, lumpy vaginal discharge
  • Pain during urination
  • Stinging sensations in the vagina or vulva
  • Redness in the vagina and vulva
  • Swelling of the labia and vulva
  • Pain during intercourse

It is important to note that the yeast infection symptoms in women are similar to those of other STIs and genital infections. To be sure that you are experiencing a yeast infection, you should contact your doctor or gynecologist. Treatment for yeast infections are easily accessible but by self-treating, you may inadvertently make the problem worse. Seeing a PlushCare doctor by phone or video chat can usually help you determine if you are suffering from a yeast infection within only one appointment (and yes, an online doctor can prescribe medication!).

Symptoms that May NOT Indicate a Vaginal Yeast Infection

As with any sensitive area of a woman’s body, symptoms may be deceiving. Be on the lookout for these symptoms that mimic a yeast infection in women, but may be indicative of a more serious problem:

  • Vaginal discharge with a sour, pungent odor – May indicate a Sexually Transmitted Infection or Disease, including herpes and trichomoniasis.
  • Itching near your anus – May be a sign of hemorrhoids or other genital infection.
  • Blood in your stool/near your vulva – Also a symptom of hemorrhoids. Contact your doctor immediately should you experience this.
  • 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.

Women who experience more than one yeast infection throughout their lives will learn to identify the symptoms of vaginal yeast infection early on. If these symptoms deviate from the normal, be sure to contact your doctor immediately.


Cause & Effect: What Your Symptoms Say About Your Yeast Infection

Many things can throw off the balance of bacteria and yeast that, (usually) live together peacefully in your vagina. The root cause of your yeast infection may determine the symptoms you experience and how long the yeast infection will last.

Understand these common causes of female yeast infection:

Lifestyle Causes of Yeast Infections in Women

  • Poor eating habits – A healthy diet will help protect your body against infection. Changes in diet may weaken your body’s defenses. This may be accompanied with other ailments, such as increased frequency of colds or flu. If you develop a yeast infection after your diet has changed for the worse, consider remedying your diet to strengthen your body’s immune system.
  • Sexual activity – Many women report getting a yeast infection after sexual intercourse. If you can, it is best to clean your genitals after sex to get rid of any harmful bacteria. Men can also develop yeast infections in their genitals (although not usually as frequently as females). 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 and find ways avoid spreading the infection until your condition has improved.
  • 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. Talk to your doctor if you find that your new contraceptive has increased the frequency of yeast infections that you experience. Sometimes even a slight adjustment of the hormones in your birth control can eliminate the problem.
  • Immense stress – Stress can change the balance of your body’s chemistry, which can lead to surprising and uncomfortable physiological changes. Some women report increased frequency of yeast infections during times of extreme stress.
  • 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 – Douching may cause yeast infections because it disrupts the balance of bacteria and yeast in and around the vaginal area. If you experience a yeast infection after douching, reconsider your hygiene habits to eliminate the use of douches.
  • Tight clothing/new clothing detergent – Wearing tight clothing, especially pants and underwear can restrict airflow to your vagina. Yeast thrive 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, like cotton. 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. Using detergents with fewer chemicals can help minimize the chance of getting a yeast infection.

Cyclical Changes that May Cause a Yeast Infection

  • Menopause– Hormonal changes in a woman’s body can throw off that 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.
  • Menstruation – Some women report yeast infections during a certain phase of their menstrual cycle. Hormonal fluctuations are usually to blame. Relying heavily on pads rather than tampons or menstrual cups can also increase your risk of yeast infection. Throughout the course of your period, try to keep your genital area as clean and as dry as possible.
  • Pregnancy– Conversely, high estrogen levels can be associated with yeast infections, especially during pregnancy. These changes in estrogen levels (compounded with lifestyle changes, presumably 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. Relying heavily on pads rather than tampons or menstrual cups can also increase your risk of yeast infection. Throughout the course of your period, try to keep your genital area as clean and as dry as possible.

Pre-Existing Medical Conditions that May Cause a Yeast Infection

  • HIV – Women who have HIV may experience more frequent yeast infections because of their weakened immune systems. Being sure to maintain a healthy diet, sleeping cycle, and lifestyle will help support your body’s immune system.
  • 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 regions. Overproduction of yeast in these cases often led to yeast infections. If you experience frequent yeast infections and have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, your doctor can help you develop strategies to minimize your risk of getting yeast infections in the future.

Symptoms of vaginal yeast infection can be surprising and concerning if you have never experienced them before. It is important to be proactive about noticing and addressing these symptoms.

Other Types of Yeast Infections in Women

Although yeast infections of the vaginal canal are the most common type of yeast infection that women experience, the condition can also develop in other parts of the body.

  • Breast Yeast Infection – Also known as Mammary candida, appears especially in women who are breastfeeding. Irritation of the nipple can lead to a yeast infection of the areola. This can be uncomfortable and hard to deal with, as the yeast infection may transfer to your baby’s mouth, and then back to you. If you are breastfeeding and experience these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately to begin a treatment regimen for both you and your baby. Usually, you can continue to breastfeed your baby as normal throughout the treatment process. Symptoms of a breast yeast infection are: Bright red nipples or areolas; Small cuts around the nipple; and Burning sensation around the nipple during and after breastfeeding.
  • Feet Yeast Infection– Fungal yeast infections can develop on your feet, especially during hot months when your feet are in shoes for most of the day. You can usually remedy this by using topical anti-fungal cream and being sure to change to dry, clean socks regularly.
  • Skin Yeast Infection – Yeast infections can develop on virtually any surface of the skin, but areas that have higher levels of moisture, such as the armpits and mouths, are more likely to develop yeast infections. Women who experience symptoms of vaginal yeast infections are usually more likely to develop yeast infections in other parts of their bodies.
  • Mouth – Yeast infections of the mouth are also known as “oral thrush.” It is unclear whether this type of yeast infection can be transmitted through oral sex. However, oral thrush can develop from other physical imbalances that cause the same candida yeast to overgrow. Yeast infections of the mouth are usually indicated by a bright red, usually irritated oral environment, speckled by small white dots. Consult your doctor if you experience these symptoms.

Your doctor is your best ally whenever you begin to experience any symptoms of yeast infection. Maintaining open communication with your doctor is the best way to minimize your symptoms of yeast infection, as well as your chance of getting another one.


How PlushCare Works

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

Our team of medical professionals has extensive experience consulting with patients about their treatment options, including both over the counter and prescription medicines, and can help you understand which method is right for you.

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