Understanding and identifying vaginal infections

As seen on Canadian Health & Family with Dr. Marla Shapiro. Learn more

Get the facts!

Yeast infections

A vaginal yeast infection is a common infection that is caused by a fungus called Candida. Candida is a naturally occurring yeast that is found in small amounts in a woman’s vagina. A yeast infection is the result of an increase in the quantity of Candida.

Contributing factors

The following factors may contribute to vaginal yeast infections:

  • pregnancy
  • birth control pills
  • menstruation
  • recent or current use of antibiotics
  • unprotected sex
  • poorly controlled diabetes
  • weak immune system
  • stress
  • vaginal douching

Symptoms

If you have a yeast infection, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • vaginal itching
  • burning while urinating
  • pain during intercourse
  • swollen or red vulva
  • thick, white vaginal discharge resembling cottage cheese

Treatment

Most yeast infections are successfully treated with over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal medications (e.g. clotrimazole, miconazole, fluconazole).
These OTC medications are available in the following forms:

  • tablets or suppositories inserted into the vagina
  • ointments and creams
  • oral capsules

For recurring yeast infections, you should see your healthcare professional as a prescription therapy may be required.

Prevention

Although you may never determine the exact cause of your yeast infection, there are some things you can do that may minimize your chance of getting one:

  • wear cotton underwear (as opposed to synthetic)
  • wear loose clothing
  • quickly change out of wet clothes or bathing suits
  • eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fibre
  • keep your genital area clean and dry
  • rinse well after using soap in your genital area
  • avoid vaginal douches and deodorants
  • always wipe from front to back following a bowel movement