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Yeast Infection Overview: Discharge, Causes and Treatment


Yeast infection treatment

As many as three out of four women and people with vaginas will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime. Almost half will experience two or more. 

Today I'm going to explain what vaginal yeast infections are, discuss common causes and symptoms, and explain diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. 

What is a yeast infection? 

Yeast are fungus that normally exist on skin, mucus membranes, and in the vagina. When yeast growth increases in the vagina, it can cause bothersome symptoms of a yeast infection, also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis. 

What causes a yeast infection? 

The fungus Candida albicans is responsible for 85 to 90% of vaginal yeast infections. Excessive growth of this fungus occurs most commonly in warm and humid conditions or where skin is damaged. 

Although yeast is normally present in the vagina, when the normal healthy bacteria called lactobacilli decreases, yeast growth increases and can cause the infection. 

Other factors that also increase a person's risk of yeast infections include: Antibiotic use, pregnancy, a weakened immune system, and diabetes. 

What are symptoms of a yeast infection? 

The most common symptoms are increased white vaginal discharge, vulval itching, and redness or rash. Vaginal soreness, vulvar burning, irritation, and pain with intercourse may also be present.

Although nearly half of people with vaginas will have two or more yeast infections in their lifetime, a small number will develop recurrent yeast infections with more than four in one year. In these cases, burning is the most prominent symptom of the infection. 

How is someone diagnosed with a yeast infection? 

Your healthcare provider will take your medical history and do a physical examination. Redness and swelling of the vulva or vagina and whitest discharge are often seen with yeast infection.

Your provider may examine the vaginal discharge under a microscope to see if the yeast are present. 

How is a yeast infection treated? 

Vaginal yeast infections can be easily treated with either a cream or a pill. The antifungal creams are available without a prescription and are placed in the vagina with an inserter or applicator. You can also place cream outside the vagina on the vulva to treat itching. 

If you continue to have symptoms after treatment with creams, you have a severe infection, or you have trouble fighting infections, or if you just prefer to take a pill, an antifungal pill called fluconazole can be prescribed by your provider. 

What are complicated yeast infections? 

Well complicated yeast infections basically means a yeast infection which is not getting cured with conventional treatment. Recurrent yeast infection or recurrent fungal infection is one of the commonest problem that women suffer from. 

We say a recurrent infection, when you get these infections more than four episodes in a year. It is possible that the yeast infection was not completely cured by the first line of treatment that you took. Or it has recurred after it being treated. 

When such a situation occurs we need to drop a long pan to keep the patients on some kind of maintenance therapy for some time so that the yeast infection is completely treated. 

What can someone do to prevent a yeast infection? 

The vagina will normally keep the yeast, bacteria, and pH of the vagina in harmony without you doing anything. Avoid perfumes, soaps, and douching in the vagina as it can interfere with this natural state of balance and increases your chance of getting an infection or irritation. 

When should I call my health care provider? Although yeast infections are the most common cause of vaginal itching and discharge, there are other causes that require different treatments and can cause more serious infections. 

Biggest myths about yeast infection and their true colour 

So let me use this opportunity to debunk some of the myths about yeast infection. Yeast is very common. It's the second most common vaginal infection in women. 

75% of all women will have at least one yeast infection in their lifetime. More than 650,000 women in the United States will have recurrent yeast infection, meaning will have more than three yeast infections in their lifetime. So what are the common myths about yeast infection? 

Is yeast infection a sexually transmitted disease? 

Let's start with this question whose answer is capital no, yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted infection. We have some theories that we could have pockets where we keep yeast, and when your immune system is decreased, it comes up. 

So, for example, the bowel, you might hear people carry yeast in the bowel or the men who are not circumcised could have it in the foreskin. But that doesn't mean it's an STD. I mean, you might have discomfort having sex, but you cannot spread yeast infection by having sexual intercourse. 

Yeast infections are not contagious. They can be in various parts of the body, whether it's the vagina or the vulva, or for men, they could be in the foreskin, but they're not contagious. 

Can men have yeast infection?

Men can have yeast infection, it's called balanitis. They can have a yeast balanitis when they have the yeast on the skin. Some people have yeast in the vagina. We call it a colonization, meaning it's just a yeast element sitting in the vagina. That can be there for a while. 

Can yeast infection go away without treatment?

When you truly have a yeast infection that is making you uncomfortable, it doesn't go away on its own. Vaginal yeast creams do not totally kill yeast, they alleviate symptoms of yeast infection, they make the symptoms better. And everyone wants the symptom of itchiness to go away. 

Some antifungal medications also come with vaginal cream. And the idea is while the antifungal is working, you have some instantaneous relief of the itchiness. But the anti-itch cream is not what is the medication. It's the antifungal. 

Can using feminine hygiene products prevent yeast infection?

The answer is no, especially reproductive age women. When we are young, we have estrogen in our bodies, estrogen in the vulva, estrogen in the vagina. It produces the necessary things that allows the vagina and the vulva to clean itself.

Using water or a mild hypoallergenic soap as you take a shower is good enough. It's good to stay healthy. Garlic, yogurt, probiotics, they are healthy things and supplements, but they don't treat yeast infection. 

Not every itch is a yeast. And if you think it's a yeast infection because you've had something similar, you can start with an antifungal over-the-counter. If within one to two days you're not feeling better, you need to call your healthcare provider and be examined.


If you have symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection like vaginal itching, increased white clumpy or vaginal discharge, or painful red rash, you can try a vaginal cream available at most pharmacies without a prescription. 

If you have other symptoms like fever or pelvic or abdominal pain, you should contact your health care provider. If your symptoms do not improve with treatment or your symptoms return, please contact your health care provider as you may have a different cause of your symptoms that requires an exam, testing, or a different treatment. 

And as always, if you have any additional questions or concerns, please reach out to your health care provider.


1. Oriel J D, Partridge B M, Denny M J, Coleman J C. Genital Yeast Infections Br Med J 1972; 4 :761 doi:10.1136/bmj.4.5843.761

2. Jean Abbott, Clinical and Microscopic Diagnosis of Vaginal Yeast Infection: A Prospective Analysis, Annals of Emergency Medicine, Volume 25, Issue 5, 1995, Pages 587-591, ISSN 0196-0644.

3. EG Evans et al. Criteria for the diagnosis of vaginal candidosis: Evaluation of a new latex agglutination test, Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol(1986)

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