What You Need to Know About Yeast Infection

What is Yeast and What Causes It?

  • Yeast vaginitis is the second most common vaginal infection after bacterial vaginosis
  • 75% of women experience an episode of vaginal yeast infection at some time in their life
  • Yeast infections are caused by fungal organisms.
  • The majority of vaginal yeast infections are caused by Candida Albicans
  • There are some less common yeast organisms such as Torulopsis Glabrata that may cause infections that do not clear up with the usual therapies
  • Yeast infections may be more common in women who have taken antibiotics, are on hormonal contraception, have diabetes and or are pregnant.
  • Women who have medical conditions or take medicines which weaken the immune system are at greater risk for yeast

Signs and Symptoms of Yeast Vaginitis

  • Yeast infections may cause no symptoms
  • Sometimes yeast is noted on a Pap test and does not require treatment, unless there are symptoms
  • There may be increased vaginal discharge with yeast infection
  • This is typically described as thick or curdy
  • There may be mild to moderate itching and irritation
  • If the genital skin becomes very irritated, it may become red, swollen and may develop splits.

How is yeast diagnosed?

  • The symptoms of thick curdy discharge, itch and irritation are classic for yeast
  • Recent antibiotic use or steroids may suggest the possibility of yeast
  • The health care provider will perform a vaginal exam and observe the genital skin
  • The acid base level of the vagina is generally normal
  • Samples of vaginal discharge may be taken with a swab
  • The sample will be evaluated under the microscope for the presence of yeast
  • Even when yeast is present, it is only seen under the microscope half the time
  • Seeing yeast under the microscope confirms the diagnosis, but if yeast is not seen, the infection may be treated based on the symptoms. In some cases, a culture may be sent to the laboratory by swabbing the vagina and placing it in a culture tube.
  • The culture is more accurate than the information that is obtained under the microscope and takes a few days to get the results
  • A culture is used when a woman has a complicated problem such as failure to clear her infection or repeated infections.

Treatment of Yeast Vaginitis

  • Over the counter medications can be obtained without a prescription
  • These include creams for the external genital skin, suppositories and creams for the vagina that are inserted with an applicator
  • Caution should be used when self-treating for yeast. Women who have been previously diagnosed for yeast and develop similar signs and symptoms may consider choosing to obtain over the counter treatments
  • If a woman does not improve, she should seek the advice of a health care provider.
  • Women who have frequent yeast infections may need to be treated for longer than the usual length of time
  • If you have frequent yeast infections you may want to discuss longer treatment with your practitioner
  • If you are pregnant, you should be sure to consult with a health care practitioner

Answers to Commonly Asked Questions

  • Yeast is generally not sexually transmitted. It is not necessary to treat a male partner in most cases
  • Yeast infections are common in pregnancy and may be treated with the advice of the health care practitioner
  • Yeast infections are common in healthy women. If there is no other reason for concern, it is unlikely that HIV or Diabetes testing is indicated.

Copyright © 2003, 2008 ASCCP. All Rights Reserved.
These materials were developed by the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) Patient Education Committees and approved by the Board of Directors for use by patients.

This material is provided for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to replace professional care. Please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. The ASCCP National Office does not provide individual consultation on cases or diagnoses.

While you may download, print and distribute these materials freely, they are copyrighted materials and all rights are owned by ASCCP. Therefore, they may not be changed, edited or altered in any way.


Author: H. Sandra Chevalier-Batik

I started the Inconvenient Woman Blog in 2007, and am the product of a long line of inconvenient women. The matriarchal line is French-Canadian, Roman Catholic, with a very feisty Irish great-grandmother thrown in for sheer bloody mindedness. I am a research analyst and author who has made her living studying technical data, and developing articles, training materials, books and web content. Tracking through statistical data, and oblique cross-references to find the relevant connections that identifies a problem, or explains a path of action, is my passion. I love clearly delineating the magic questions of knowledge: Who, What, Why, When, Where and for How Much, Paid to Whom. My life lessons: listen carefully, question with boldness, and personally verify the answers. I look at America through the appreciative eyes of an immigrant, and an amateur historian; the popular and political culture is a ceaseless fascination. I have no impressive initials after my name. I’m merely an observer and a chronicler, an inconvenient woman who asks questions, and sometimes encourages others to look at things differently.