13 Things You Might Not Know About Yeast Infections

Health Writer
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Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of Candida, a microscopic fungus found in the digestive tract, on the skin and in the vagina. Its growth is normally controlled by good bacteria, but it can sometimes grow out of control. Find out how to avoid them – and what to do if you do get one.

Infection symptoms

Yeast infections cause swelling, itching and burning of the area around the vulva. You might also experience pain while urinating or during sex. One of the telltale signs is a thick white discharge that can look like cottage cheese.

Common condition

Yeast infections are very common. Womenshealth.gov indicates that 75 percent of women will have one, and about half of all women will have two or more, over a lifetime. About 5 percent of women will have four or more a year. If you get recurrent yeast infections, talk to your doctor about being checked for diabetes. (See next slide.)

What you’re at risk for

Risk factors for yeast infections include pregnancy; having diabetes with uncontrolled blood sugar; using a hormonal birth control, especially those that have higher levels of estrogen; using douche or vaginal sprays; taking antibiotics or steroid medications; and having a weakened immune system.

It’s sexually contagious

While a yeast infection is not an STD, you can get a yeast infection from having sex with someone who already has one. About 15 percent of men who have sex with a woman who has a yeast infection will develop an itchy rash on their penis. If your partner is a woman, there is a higher risk that you can pass the infection to her.

Talk to your doctor first thing

Even though there are over-the-counter (OTC) medications for yeast infections, it is best to talk to your doctor before taking them. Other infections, such as bacterial vaginosis and some STDs, can have similar symptoms. OTC medications for yeast infections will not help other infections, and if you don’t have a yeast infection you can build up a resistance to these medications.

Back up your birth control

Some medications for yeast infections can weaken condoms and diaphragms. If you are using these types of birth control, talk to your doctor about when it will be safe to resume using them to avoid unplanned pregnancies.


One medication for yeast infections, oral fluconazole, may cause birth defects. Always talk to your doctor before treating a yeast infection if you are pregnant.

Preventative care

Some studies have indicated that eating yogurt with live cultures or taking a supplement of Lactobacillus acidophilus can help to prevent yeast infections, but the research is not definitive.


Douching can cause yeast infections because it removes the “good” bacteria from your vagina, allowing Candida to grow.

Stay clean

Good feminine hygiene is important for preventing yeast infections. You should change tampons, pads and panty liners often. It is best to avoid scented products, including bubble baths and feminine sprays. After using the bathroom, always wipe from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria into the vagina.

What to wear

You might be able to lower your risk of getting a yeast infection by wearing cotton underwear, avoiding tight pants or pantyhose, changing wet swimsuits or damp workout clothes immediately, and avoiding hot tubs and very hot baths.

Yeast in the mouth

Yeast infections can also appear in the mouth. When they do, they are called thrush. This can cause lesions on your tongue, cheeks and gums. If it is in your esophagus, you might find it painful to swallow.