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Vaginal yeast infections

What is it?

Yeast infections are caused by one of the many species of fungi called candida.

Candida can normally live in small numbers in the vagina, as well as in the mouth and digestive tract of both men and women.

A vaginal yeast infection can occur due to the following:

  • When there is a change in the balance in a woman’s system, such as when she is taking an antibiotic, which kills "friendly" bacteria that normally keep the yeast in balance
  • Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy
  • Diabetes, which allows sugar in the urine and vagina

Who is affected?

Nearly 75 percent of all adult women have at least one yeast infection in their lifetime1.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of a yeast infection include:

  • A thick, white vaginal discharge the consistency of cottage cheese
  • A watery, odorless discharge
  • An itchy and red vagina and vulva

What can I do to prevent and treat it?

To prevent yeast infections:

  • Avoid persistent and excessive moisture in the genital area by wearing the following:
    • underwear with cotton crotches
    • pantyhose with cotton crotches
    • loose-fitting slacks
  • Promptly change after swimming or exercising and wash bathing suits and exercise clothes after each use.
  • Include cranberry juice and yogurt (with live cultures) in your diet.

There are OTC medications in the family of drugs called "azoles," which are used to treat yeast infections. These medications come in three or seven day courses of treatment, with the only difference being the length of treatment1.

Important additional information

It is important that you know you have a yeast infection before treating it with an OTC medication2:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), misdiagnosis is common.
  • Studies have shown that as many as two-thirds of all OTC drugs sold to treat yeast infections were used by women who didn't actually have a yeast infection.
  • Using these drugs when they are not needed may lead to a resistant infection. Overuse of anti-fungal medications can also increase the chance that the fungus will eventually develop resistance to medications.

See your doctor if2:

  • All of your symptoms do not go away completely
  • The symptoms return immediately or shortly after you finish treatment
  • You have any other serious medical problems such as diabetes
  • You might be pregnant

The following are examples of OTC medications that can be used to treat yeast infections:

Symptom relief Helpful medications Active ingredients* to look for in generic and name brand OTC products

Treat yeast infection

Antifungals

Clotrimazole
Example: Gyne-Lotrimin®

Miconazole nitrate
Example: Monistat®

* Active ingredients: ingredients in a medication that produce a therapeutic response


Sources:

1 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at www.NICHD.nih.gov
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.CDC.gov

Note: This information is intended to provide readers with health information. The information provided is not a substitute for consultation with a healthcare provider. Brand names included on this Web page are provided for examples only. Their inclusion does not mean that they are endorsed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

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