What is a yeast infection?
A yeast infection is a type of infection of the vagina
. Yeast infections are among the most common reasons for calls and visits to health professionals. Although they're not serious, they feel gross and itchy. Your health professional can usually tell you at a regular appointment if you have a yeast infection. The symptoms of a yeast infection are so easy to recognize that many girls can decide themselves if they have one. You can easily treat a yeast infection with a prescription medicine or with one of the many nonprescription medicines available in the drug store. A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted disease. Any girl can get one. back to top
How do you get a yeast infection?
contains a number of different bacteria
, including many that cause infections. Normally, a "good" bacteria, called lactobacillus, is the most common bacteria in your vagina. Lactobacillus prevents harmful bacteria and fungus from growing. But anything that changes the environment of the vagina can give the harmful bacteria the chance to cause an infection. If enough bad bacteria grow, you can get a yeast infection.
For example, if you take antibiotics for an illness like an ear infection, the antibiotics might kill the good lactobacilli and leave the harmful vaginal bacteria or yeast alone. That's why so many girls get vaginal infections after they take antibiotics. Some girls and women have to take medications such as steroids that suppress their immune system. Pregnancy and diabetes (especially if it is not properly treated) also can make the vagina more welcoming for harmful bacteria. All of these illnesses and medicines make it more difficult for your body to fight off vaginal infections and you may get a yeast infection because of them. back to top
What can I do to avoid a yeast infection?
Anything that changes the normal environment of the vagina
can lead to vaginal infections. If you get a lot of them, these suggestions may help:
What does a yeast infection feel like?
- Wear cotton underwear.
- Don't wear pantyhose if possible.
- Don't use tampons with deodorant in them.
- Don't use anything around the vagina that's perfumed or has a print on it, even toilet paper.
- Use a gentle, nondrying soap.
- Avoid harsh laundry detergents. back to top
The symptoms of a yeast infection include:
How do I know if I have a yeast infection?
Your health professional can usually diagnose a yeast infection just by finding discharge that looks like cottage cheese during a pelvic exam
. But sometimes it's difficult to tell one type of vaginal infection from another. Two simple tests can help your health professional figure out what you've got.
In the first test, your health professional will look at a sample of your vaginal discharge under a microscope. The discharge is treated with a special solution so any yeast can be seen.
In the second test, your health professional will send a sample of your discharge to the lab for a culture
. The lab will test it to find out exactly what kind of infection you have. Getting a culture can be especially helpful if you don't get better after treatment. Maybe the wrong diagnosis was made the first time. If you don't have a yeast infection, these tests will help your health professional figure out what kind of infection you do have. back to top
How do I get rid of a yeast infection?
The treatment for a yeast infection is a usually an antifungal
cream or ointment that you apply directly inside your vagina
. Monistat® and GyneLotrimin® are the most common antibiotic creams for yeast infections. They're available at the drugstore without a prescription. You use an applicator, like the ones used for tampons, to put the antibiotic in the right place.
Creams are messy, but they can give you instant relief if you have itching on the outside of your vagina. They can be used for 1, 3, or 7 days, depending on the medication. Some girls prefer to cure a yeast infection with an oral antibiotics
called fluconazole (Diflucan®). But you can only get this medication with a prescription from your health professional. back to top
How do I know if the medicine for my yeast infection is working?
Normally, girls feel better within 24 hours after starting the right medicine. When a girl doesn't feel better within 48 hours, it's possible that the medication she's using is not right for the type of vaginal infection she has. If you have any questions about whether you have the right medicine, you should call your health professional. back to top
Can't I just buy one of those creams at the drugstore and treat myself?
Although there are many nonprescription medications for vaginal infections, you should talk your health professional before using one for the first time. You need to know what type of vaginal infection you have, so you can choose the right medication or get a prescription medicine if necessary.
If you're sure that you have a yeast infection, because your symptoms are the same as the last time you had one, you can treat yourself with one of the medicines available at the drugstore. back to top