What Is a Yeast Infection and How Is It Treated?

Samantha Medina, DO is an OB/GYN at Banner Health Center in Surprise. To make an appointment with Dr. Medina, call 623-478-3100.

Question: What is a vaginal yeast infection and how is it treated?

Answer: A vaginal yeast infection occurs when too many yeast cells grow in the vagina. Yeast is a fungus that naturally exists in a healthy vagina along with other bacteria, but sometimes these organisms get out of balance and the overgrowth of yeast causes the infection. Many things can affect the balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina including antibiotics, shifts in hormones caused by pregnancy or hormone therapy, or other health conditions like diabetes or HIV.

Women with yeast infections will experience some discomfort, namely itching or tenderness in the vagina. Pain or burning may occur when going to the bathroom or having sexual intercourse. In some cases, a thick discharge resembling cottage cheese will accompany the infection. Yeast infections are more likely to develop in the week before your menstrual period.

Fortunately, yeast infections are easily treated with topical or oral medications, which typically provide quick relief. However, it is important to see a physician if you suspect a yeast infection but have not had one before. The doctor can accurately diagnose your condition from your symptoms and determine the type of vaginal infection. If a yeast infection is diagnosed, your doctor will recommend the appropriate prescription or over-the-counter remedy.

If you’ve had a prior yeast infection and can recognize the condition on your own, it can be treated with a nonprescription remedy as long as you aren’t pregnant. Expectant mothers should always discuss any treatments with their doctor to ensure they are safe to use in pregnancy. If you have a repeat yeast infection and the nonprescription remedy does not resolve the infection, call your doctor as you may have a different type of infection.