Yeast Infection: Teen Version
What is a yeast infection?
A yeast infection is a condition caused by the overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. It is also called candidiasis. The yeast may infect the vagina, mouth, or other moist areas on the skin.
How does it occur?
It’s normal to have some yeast in the rectal and vaginal areas. Yeast causes trouble only when there are too many yeast organisms. Sometimes the yeast grows (multiplies) quickly and causes an infection.
Several things may cause an overgrowth of yeast.
- If you are taking antibiotics, the medicine may kill the bacteria that normally keep yeast levels down.
- Steroid medicine can also lead to an overgrowth of yeast.
- Conditions that cause hormonal changes, such as having your period, pregnancy, or taking birth control pills, may cause yeast to grow.
- Yeast infections may be more likely if you have diabetes, especially when the blood sugar level is too high. Yeast infections that do not heal or that keep coming back may sometimes be an early sign of diabetes.
- In some cases, yeast infections that don't go away are an early sign of HIV infection.
- Drugs that lower the body's defenses against infection, such as drugs used to treat AIDS, can allow the yeast to grow and spread.
A yeast infection is usually not spread by sexual intercourse.
What are the symptoms?
In women, symptoms may include:
- a discharge from the vagina that is thick and white and looks like paste or cottage cheese
- itching in and around the vagina
- redness and swelling of the vagina and area near the vagina (the vulva)
- a burning feeling when you urinate
- pain when you have sex.
Some women have no symptoms.
In men, the yeast can cause swelling and redness on the penis and foreskin. Yeast infections of the penis are more common when the penis is uncircumcised.
If the mouth is infected, the lining of the mouth is often red and sore. Sometimes there are white spots and patches on the tongue and cheek lining. This is called thrush. The yeast can also cause creamy yellow, raised sores on the mouth.
Yeast infection of the skin causes an itchy red rash. Often the rash is a red patch. Sometimes there are small red bumps around the red area. It is most common in areas that stay warm and moist, like under the breasts or in the groin.
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. The diagnosis may be clear from your symptoms and your exam. Your provider may collect samples of cells from places where you are having symptoms, such as the mouth, vagina, or skin. Your provider can use a microscope to look for yeast in the cell samples.
How is it treated?
Medicines are available as:
- creams and suppositories for the vagina
- creams for the skin
- tablets taken by mouth for infection in any area.
A vaginal suppository is a cream or tablet that is pushed up into the vagina each evening just before you go to bed. You will do this for a certain number of nights, depending on the type of suppository. Your body temperature will melt the suppository, so you may want to wear a sanitary pad to protect your clothing. Keep using the suppositories even if you have a menstrual period during this time. Sometimes your provider may recommend putting a vaginal yeast cream on the area around the outside of the vagina if the area is red, swollen, and itchy.
Some medicines you can buy without a prescription, such as miconazole and clotrimazole. You should see your healthcare provider before you use any nonprescription products, especially if:
- You have never had a yeast infection.
- You are not sure that yeast is the cause of your symptoms.
- You are sexually active.
If you have tried nonprescription suppositories or cream and they have not worked for you, your provider may prescribe a medicine that is taken by mouth.
Take the medicine exactly as prescribed. If you do not think it is helping, call your healthcare provider. Do not increase how much you take or how often you take it without talking to your healthcare provider first.
Treatment for yeast infections will not help or cure sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomonas.
How long will the effects last?
With proper treatment, the infection usually clears up in a few days to a week.
How can I take care of myself?
If you have a vaginal yeast infection, follow these guidelines:
- Follow the full treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider.
- After urinating, wipe gently to avoid irritation.
- Use unscented soaps.
- Avoid using douches and other chemicals, such as bubble bath or hygiene spray, in the vaginal area unless recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Take a shower instead of a bath. Pat the genital area dry.
- Wear cotton underwear to allow ventilation and to keep the area drier.
- Avoid sexual intercourse until the infection is gone.
If you have been diagnosed before with a yeast infection and your symptoms are the same, try using a nonprescription medicine the next time you have a yeast infection. If your symptoms do not get better, see your healthcare provider.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
See your healthcare provider promptly if:
- Your symptoms get worse or do not improve, or new symptoms develop.
- You have repeated yeast infections for 2 months or your infection does not go away even though you are treating it with medicine.
- You have any symptoms that worry you.
What can be done to prevent a yeast infection?
To prevent yeast infection, follow these guidelines:
- Keep naturally moist areas of the body as cool and dry as possible.
- Avoid wearing a wet bathing suit or damp clothing for long periods of time.
- Avoid using douches, perfumed soaps, feminine sprays, feminine hygiene deodorants, or scented pads or tampons, and don't take bubble baths.
- Wear underwear that is all cotton or has a cotton crotch. Pantyhose should also have a cotton crotch. Cotton allows better air circulation than nylon. Change underwear and pantyhose every day.
- Avoid wearing tight pantyhose or tight pants.
- Add yogurt to your diet.
- Avoid frequent or prolonged use of oral antibiotics, if possible.
- Lose weight if you are overweight. (Yeast tends to grow in the skinfolds of overweight people – especially the breasts, belly, and groin.)
- If you are diabetic, keep your blood sugar under control.
Developed by David W. Kaplan, MD, and RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-02-07
Last reviewed: 2010-10-01
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes
available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical
evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.