Yeast Infection (Candidiasis) Overview

As many as 75 percent of women experience genital candidiasis, also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC), candidal vaginitis, monilial vaginitis, monilial infection, and vaginal yeast infection during their lifetime. In this condition, the overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans, normally present in vaginal flora, causes an allergic reaction that produces symptoms.

Yeast infection most commonly occurs in sexually active young women—it's the most commonly diagnosed vaginal infection. Genital yeast infections generally are not considered to be sexually transmitted, but it is possible to acquire infection from a partner with genital or oral colonization. Men with genital yeast infection are usually asymptomatic.

Causes and Risk Factors for Yeast Infection (Candidiasis)

Vulvovaginal candidiasis is an opportunistic infection associated with risk factors that disrupt the body's natural defense against proliferation and infection, such as the following:

  • Broad-spectrum antibiotic use
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Douching
  • Immunodeficiency
  • IUDs (intrauterine device)
  • Pregnancy
  • Scented feminine hygiene products
  • Steroid use

Signs & Symptoms of Yeast Infection (Candidiasis)

Itching, burning, and vulvovaginal pain, irritation, and inflammation are common symptoms of yeast infection. Thick, white, cottage-cheese-like vaginal discharge may coat the vaginal walls. There is no foul odor. Urination and intercourse may be painful.

Yeast Infection (Candidiasis) Diagnosis

Cultures, a pH level check, and microscopic examination of vaginal secretions are usually performed to confirm the diagnosis and help rule out other possible infections.

Treatment for Yeast Infection (Candidiasis)

A single dose of fluconazole or antifungal vaginal cream containing miconazole or clotrimazole is typically prescribed. Creams usually are used for 3 to 7 days. Chronic yeast infection may be treated with oral antifungal drugs for an extended period of time.

Most physicians discourage women from diagnosing and treating themselves with over-the-counter medications, because symptoms may be produced by more serious vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis. Some over-the-counter medications contain ingredients that relieve symptoms but do not effectively treat the infection.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 09 Jun 1998

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015