Do I Have a Yeast Infection?
While they can be distressing, yeast infections aren’t usually serious. That said, because there are certain conditions that can mimic a yeast infection, it’s important to know the cause of your symptoms. Here are some basic facts about yeast infections, along with potential health issues that can cause similar symptoms.
What Is a Vaginal Yeast Infection?
Yeast is a benign colonizer of the vaginal area and can be found within healthy vaginas in small numbers. When yeast cells begin growing within the vagina, a yeast infection has occurred.
What causes a Yeast Infection?
The majority of yeast infections are caused by a specific type of yeast called Candida albicans, which normally lives in harmony with other microorganisms within the vagina. The most common vaginal microorganism, a bacterium called Lactobacillus acidophilus, typically helps to keep yeast and other organisms under control. Sometimes, however, something can happen to disrupt the balance of these organisms. The most common culprits include:
• Taking antibiotics for an unrelated infection
• A pregnancy
• Hormone therapy
• Suppressed immune function
Whatever the cause, once the balance is disrupted, yeast can start growing too much and cause symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of a Yeast Infection?
Yeast infections usually cause soreness or itching in the vagina. In some instances, a person may experience burning or pain while urinating or having sex. Some women may also have a clumpy, odorless, white discharge that looks similar to cottage cheese.
What Else Could It Be?
Many women mistakenly believe they have a yeast infection, when something else is actually behind the symptoms. Some of these culprits include bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted diseases, hemorrhoids, low estrogen, allergies or skin conditions. If you experience troubling symptoms that don’t respond to over-the-counter yeast infection treatments, consider visiting your doctor for a vaginal exam.