Aug 30, 2022

Vaginal Candidiasis: Symptoms and Treatments

Vaginal candidiasis, typically referred to as a yeast infection, is one of the most common vaginal infections in women. In fact, Harvard Health states that 75% of women will experience at least one yeast infection in their life, and around half will get two or more. 

As common as these infections are, they are equally annoying, uncomfortable, and painful. 

From signs and symptoms to causes and treatment options, we put together this guide on everything you need to know about vaginal candidiasis. 

What is vaginal candidiasis?

Candida (yeast) is a fungus found in and on different parts of the body: mouth, throat, skin, digestive tract, and vagina. 

When the amount of bacteria and yeast in the vagina becomes unbalanced, an overgrowth of Candida can occur, causing vaginal candidiasis

Symptoms of vaginal candidiasis

The most common signs and symptoms of a yeast infection include the following:

  • Itching and irritation in the vaginal area

  • Odorless, white, cottage-cheese-like vaginal discharge

  • Redness, swelling, and burning 

  • Pain or discomfort when urinating 

  • Pain during sex 

Causes of vaginal candidiasis

A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or sexually transmitted disease (STD). It's normal to have small amounts of yeast in the vagina. However, an infection can occur when there is an imbalance, allowing more yeast to grow. 

Certain events, medications, and medical conditions can increase the risk of developing vaginal candidiasis, such as:

  • Pregnancy

  • A weakened immune system due to diabetes, HIV, treatment for cancer or autoimmune diseases, etc

  • Medications - antibiotics, birth control pills, some chemotherapy drugs, and cortisone-type medicines

  • Stress

  • Not getting enough sleep

  • Douching

  • Poor hygiene 

  • Menstruation

Treatment options for vaginal candidiasis

Treatment options for a yeast infection depend on if it's considered "complicated" or "uncomplicated." 

Complicated or chronic yeast infections

A yeast infection is complicated or chronic if you've had four or more in 12 months, are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, or are experiencing severe symptoms.

Your physician will most likely recommend one of the following treatment options for vaginal candidiasis:

  • 14-day treatment in cream, ointment, tablet, or vaginal suppository (miconazole or tioconazole)

  • two or three doses of fluconazole (Diflucan)

  • taking fluconazole once a week for six weeks

  • using other medications inside the vagina, like boric acid, nystatin, or flucytosine

  • long-term use of topical antifungal medication, such as clotrimazole

Uncomplicated yeast infections 

Infrequent yeast infections with mild to moderate symptoms are considered uncomplicated. 

These infections can usually be treated with the one-time treatment of a prescription or an over-the-counter (OTC) medication, such as:

Whether you have a complicated or uncomplicated yeast infection, always follow your physician's instructions for these medications to ensure that the infection is completely gone and doesn't return.

When to contact your physician

You should see your doctor if:

  • This is your first time having yeast infection symptoms.

  • You're not sure whether you have one or not. Other infections and illnesses can mimic vaginal candidiasis.

  • Your symptoms don't improve with OTC antifungal/ yeast infection treatments like Monistat.

  • You develop other symptoms after starting treatment. 

How to prevent vaginal candidiasis

The chances of getting at least one yeast infection in your life are pretty high if you are a female. However, there are some preventative steps you can take to reduce your chances:

  • Stay away from douching

  • Avoid using feminine deodorants or scented tampons or pads

  • Replace feminine products frequently

  • Change out of wet clothing as soon as possible

  • Don't sit in hot tubs for an extended period or take frequent baths

  • Use water-based sexual lubricants

  • Eat yogurt or take probiotics

  • Wear underwear made of natural fibers like cotton 

  • Avoid tight fitting pants, underwear, and tights 

  • Keep blood sugar as close to normal as possible if you have diabetes

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