To make an appointment with a UC Health OB-GYN, call 513-475-8000
UC HEALTH LINE: Yeast Infections in Women Are Common, Treatable
CINCINNATI—Women are pretty attuned to their reproductive parts, and the body is pretty good at giving signals when something is wrong. Such is the case with a yeast infection, or Candida albicans, which can be disconcerting—especially when there is vaginal itching and odor.
There is no reason to be alarmed, however, says Amy Thompson, MD, a UC Health obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Cincinnati.
"Yeast infections are a very common occurrence,” says Thompson, pointing to data that 75 percent of all women will experience a yeast infection at least once.
A yeast infection is a signal that the body’s pH is off kilter and there is an overgrowth of fungal elements in the vagina, she says. Yeast infections are more common in women who are on antibiotics, pregnant, diabetic or who are taking oral contraceptives. Stress, poor diet, and tight- fitting clothing may also encourage growth. However, for many women, there is not one specific contributing factor that can be identified.
The most recognizable symptoms of a yeast infection are a cottage cheese-like discharge, burning, itching or soreness in the vaginal area. There are over-the counter, home care options for treating a yeast infection, and the infection will generally go away in about two weeks. Symptoms should start to improve within 7 days of treatment. If the symptoms do not subside, or if they do and the infection reoccurs, there is cause to seek physician care.
"The presence of symptoms for a patient typically sounds an alarm that treatment is needed,” Thompson says, adding that these symptoms include irritation of the vagina or vulva and/or burning with urination. For others, the discharge is bothersome and women seek an evaluation with their doctor to determine the cause.
In order to diagnose a yeast infection, the physician takes a history of the patient’s symptoms— including duration of time she has been experiencing the discharge, itch and/or irritation. An exam is performed to look at the vulvar and vaginal skin to see if a discharge is present and look for any other possible causes of the patient’s symptoms. A sample of the discharge can then be taken for microscopic examination as well as other testing.
Given the patient’s history, screening for sexually transmitted diseases may also be done. Any procedure done by the physician should be painless. Treatment may vary from a pill to a prescription vaginal cream if a yeast infection is confirmed. For women with recurrent yeast infections, other regimens can be discussed with your provider.
Prevention is a key to protecting yourself against yeast infections. Women who swim should be sure to change into dry clothing soon afterward and make sure that workout clothes are loose fitting to discourage vulvar and vaginal irritation. Yeast infections are not considered to be sexually transmitted and rarely is there reason to treat an intimate partner, says Thompson.
To make an appointment with Amy Thompson, MD, or another UC Health OB-GYN provider, call 513-475-7800.