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Yeast Infections

How do I get rid of a vaginal yeast infection?
How to prevent yeast infections
I hear men can get yeast infections as well. Is this true?
Non-vaginal yeast infections


A common myth about vaginal yeast infections is that they result from sexual activity. While it is true that they can be spread and shared by sexual partners, male and female, they are not caused by sex.

Yeast infections result from the body's excess production of Candida albicans, a fungus that lives inside us in small quantities but is kept in check by the vagina's natural acidity. Sometimes certain factors cause Candida to grow out of control, which can lead to the discomfort of a yeast infection. Some of these factors include[1]

Use of antibiotics
Antibiotics kill harmful bacteria, but also the common and healthy bacteria that live in the vagina and feed on Candida. Without these bacteria, Candida levels can increase to levels that cause infection.

Uncontrolled diabetes
Like all yeast, Candida feed on sugar. Diabetes raises your blood sugar level, making the body a good environment for yeast to grow.

Increased warmth and moisture in the vaginal area
Yeast grow quickly in warm or humid environments. It is important to allow the vaginal area to dry as this will reduce the chance of getting a yeast infection. Wearing damp underwear or pants that are too tight also make you a candidate for a yeast infection.

Douching removes all of the bacteria from your vagina, not just the unhealthy ones. Some of these "good bacteria" work to counter yeast so it is important not to douche excessively.

Another cause of a Candida infection is stress. No college student is immune to stress; our busy schedules often prevent us from taking proper care of our bodies and force us into poor sleep and dietary habits. Because yeast infections can be caused by a lowered immunity, it has been found that women are more prone to yeast infections during times of high stress when we allow ourselves to get run down. As if final exams weren't enough of a pain, yeast infections are likely to strike at these inopportune times. This is why you should try to take extra care of yourself when you are feeling most stressed.

Repeated yeast infections can also be caused by other illnesses, changes in routine, or by physical and mental stress.

Other possible causes include:

  • The use of some medications, including birth control pills (and antibiotics mentioned before)
  • A significant change in diet
  • Poor nutrition
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy

Some women get mild yeast infections towards the end of their periods, a common response to the body's hormonal changes. These mild infections sometimes go away without treatment as the menstrual cycle progresses, but if they don't you could try any one of several over-the-counter ointments that can relieve the horrible itching and control the yeast growth.

Sometimes hot, humid weather in the summer or wearing layers of clothing in the winter that make you too warm indoors can also increase the likelihood of infection.

Additionally, yeast infections can be transmitted from one partner to another during sexual intercourse.

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There are a number of symptoms that are often associated with yeast infections, but itching is one telltale sign that you have a yeast infection. This uncomfortable sensation, coupled with the presence of a curdy or thick white discharge (sometimes said to resemble cottage cheese) is a good indication of the possibility of a yeast infection.

Sometimes women experience some or all of the following symptoms as well:

  • Soreness
  • A rash on the outer vaginal lips
  • A burning sensation, particularly during urination
  • An unpleasant vaginal odor
  • Vulvar redness and swelling
  • Discomfort during or after sexual intercourse

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How do I get rid of a vaginal yeast infection?

There are a number of over the counter medications available to treat the fungus that causes yeast infections. Brand name products like Monistat 7, Vagistat, Femstat 3, Gyne-Lotrimin and others work in much the same way to break down the cell wall of the fungus until it can no longer function.

These medications come in a few different forms, and it is important to determine which product is best for you. The easiest way to do this is to consult your doctor, especially the first time you have a yeast infection.

Products are available in vaginal suppositories (inserts) and creams with special applicators. Remember to read the warnings on the product's label carefully and follow the directions. There are also over-the-counter and prescription pills available that can help cure yeast infections, but you should consult with your doctor if you are taking any other medication.

In addition, you should contact your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • abdominal pain or fever
  • symptoms that recur within two months
  • no improvement within three days

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How to prevent yeast infections

Yeast infections are most common in women ages 16-35 but girls as young as 10 have been diagnosed with them. Men can get them as well, though they normally do not show the same signs as women and they tend to contract them by having sex with an infected woman. College-age women are at particular risk for yeast infections because of the lifestyle we lead at school; we are often sleep-deprived, under stress and we don't always eat the healthiest foods. Because of these factors, college students should be particularly careful about preventing yeast infections.

Although yeast infections are not considered to be a sexually transmitted disease (STD), the fungus can be transmitted to a partner during sex. One way to reduce your chances of getting a yeast infection is not to have sex. But if you do have sex, using a condom will help prevent transmission of yeast infections just as it helps prevent transfer of other sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV (The virus that causes AIDS). This is one reason why you might consider using a latex or polyurethane condom every time you have sex, even if you are also using other forms of birth control.

Here are some general tips to help keep your vagina healthy and prevent the formation of vaginal infections:

  • Keep clean, washing daily with a mild soap and water. Don't use harsh soap that may irritate the skin around your vagina. Wash only the lips of your vagina and between the folds of skin - not into the vagina itself. Your vagina has natural self-cleaning mechanisms.
  • Avoid using perfumed powders, sprays or deodorants on your vagina.
  • Don't douche.
  • Cut down on sugar in your diet.
  • Eat yogurt with active bacteria cultures.
  • Be careful not to contaminate your vagina with bacteria from your anus. (Wipe from front to back when you go to the bathroom. Don't put anything in your anus and then into your vagina).
  • Avoid tight clothes that prevent your vagina from breathing. Wear clean, cotton underwear and avoid thongs that might cause irritation.
  • Use "barrier protection," preferably a latex condom, during sex.
  • Be smart about your sex life. Limit your partners and know them well.
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I hear men can get yeast infections as well. Is this true?

While a man is less likely than a woman to get yeast infections, if one partner has a yeast infection the other partner should also be treated for it. A man is less likely than a woman to be aware of having a yeast infection because he may not have any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include a moist, white, scaling rash on the penis, and itchiness or redness under the foreskin. As with females, lowered immunity, rather than sexual transmission, is the most frequent cause of genital yeast infections in males.

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Non-vaginal yeast infections

Over the counter products are only for vaginal yeast infections. They should not be used by men or for yeast infections in other areas of the body, such as the mouth or under the fingernails.

Candida infections in the mouth are often called "thrush." Symptoms include creamy white patches that cover painful areas in the mouth, throat, or on the tongue. Because other infections cause similar symptoms, it's important to go to a doctor for diagnosis.

Wearing artificial fingernails increases the chance of getting yeast infections under the natural fingernails. Fungal infections start in the space between the artificial and natural nails, which become discolored. Treatment for these types of infections -- as well as those that occur in other skin folds, such as underarms or between toes -- require different products, most of which are available only with a doctor's prescription.

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for medical advice from a health care professional.