Merck Manual

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Vaginal Yeast Infection (Candidiasis)


Oluwatosin Goje

, MD, MSCR, Cleveland Clinic, Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University

Reviewed/Revised Mar 2023
Topic Resources
  • A vaginal yeast infection may cause intense itching of the vagina and vulva, and women often have a thick, white, curd-like discharge.

  • If symptoms suggest a vaginal infection, doctors examine a sample of the discharge and may test it or fluid from the cervix for infectious organisms that can cause infection.

  • Antifungal medications—creams, vaginal suppositories, or oral medications—are effective treatment.

  • Being pregnant or having diabetes or a weakened immune system increases the risk of vaginal yeast infections.

Causes of Vaginal Yeast Infection

In women of childbearing age, yeast infections due to Candida albicans are particularly common. This yeast normally resides on the skin or in the intestine. From these areas, it can spread to the vagina. Yeast infections are not transmitted sexually.

Vaginal yeast infections are more likely to occur in women who

Antibiotics taken by mouth tend to kill the bacteria that normally reside in the vagina and that prevent yeast from growing. Thus, using antibiotics increases the risk of developing a yeast infection.

Yeast infections are more likely to occur just before menstrual periods.

Symptoms of Vaginal Yeast Infection

The vagina and vulva may itch or burn, which may be particularly severe during sexual intercourse. The genital area may become red and swollen. Women may have a white discharge, often thick and curd-like.

Vaginal yeast infection symptoms may worsen the week before a menstrual period begins.

Did You Know...

  • Vaginal yeast infections are not sexually transmitted.

  • Taking antibiotics to treat other infections increases the risk of yeast infections.

Diagnosis of Vaginal Yeast Infection

  • A doctor's evaluation

  • Examination of a sample of the discharge and/or fluid from the cervix

If women have a vaginal discharge that is unusual or that lasts for more than a few days or have other vaginal symptoms, they should see a doctor.

Doctors suspect a yeast infection based on symptoms, such as a thick, white, curd-like discharge. They then ask questions about the discharge, other symptoms, possible causes (such as diabetes, other disorders, and use of antibiotics or hormones), and hygiene.

To confirm the diagnosis, doctors do a pelvic examination Gynecologic Examination For gynecologic care, a woman should choose a health care practitioner with whom she can comfortably discuss sensitive topics, such as sex, birth control, pregnancy, and problems related to... read more . While examining the vagina, the doctor takes a sample of the discharge with a cotton-tipped swab. The sample is examined under a microscope and sometimes cultured (placed in a substance that allows infectious organisms to grow). With information from these examinations, the doctor can often identify the cause of the symptoms.

Treatment of Vaginal Yeast Infection

  • Antifungal medications

Yeast infections are treated with antifungal medications. They may be used in the following ways:

  • Applied as a cream to the affected area

  • Inserted into the vagina as a suppository

  • Taken by mouth

Vaginal treatments with butoconazole, clotrimazole, miconazole, and tioconazole are available without a prescription. Oils in these creams and ointments weaken latex-based condoms and diaphragms, so women should not use latex products for birth control during treatment.

Antifungal medications (such as fluconazole and itraconazole) taken by mouth require a prescription. A single dose of fluconazole is as effective as the creams and ointments. However, if infections recur often, women may need to take several doses.

New oral antifungal medications to treat vaginal yeast infections include ibrexafungerp and oteseconazole.


Prevention of Vaginal Yeast Infection

Women who are at high risk of a yeast infection may need to take an antifungal medication by mouth to help prevent yeast infections. Such women include those with the following:

  • Diabetes

  • A need to take antibiotics for a long time

  • Repeated yeast infections, particularly in women with a weakened immune system

Keeping the vulva dry and wearing loose, absorbent cotton clothing that allows air to circulate can reduce moisture, which encourages the growth of yeast, and thus help prevent yeast from growing.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
Alevazol , Antifungal, Anti-Fungal, ATHLETE'S FOOT, Cruex, Desenex, Fungoid, Gyne-Lotrimin, Lotrimin, Lotrimin AF, Lotrimin AF Ringworm, Micotrin AC, Mycelex, Mycelex Troche, Mycozyl AC
Aloe Vesta, Antifungal, AZOLEN TINCTURE, Baza, Cruex, Desenex, Desenex Jock Itch, Fungoid, Lotrimin AF, Lotrimin AF Antifungal Liquid, Lotrimin AF Deodorant, Lotrimin AF Powder, Lotrimin AF Spray, Micaderm , Micatin, Miconazole 7, Micotrin AP, Micro-Guard , Mitrazol, Monistat 1 Day or Night Combination Pack, Monistat 1 Vaginal Ovule Combination Pack, Monistat 1 Vaginal Ovule Combination Pack (Prefilled), Monistat 3, Monistat 3 Vaginal Cream (Prefilled), Monistat 3 Vaginal Cream Combination Pack, Monistat 3 Vaginal Cream Combination Pack (Prefilled), Monistat 3 Vaginal Ovule Combination Pack, Monistat 3 Vaginal Suppositories Combination Pack, Monistat 7, Monistat 7 Vaginal Cream Combination Pack, Monistat-Derm, Mycozyl AP, Neosporin AF, Novana Anti-Fungal, Oravig, Remedy, Remedy Phytoplex, Soothe & Cool INZO, Ting Antifungal, Triple Paste AF , Vagistat-3, Zeasorb Athlete's Foot, Zeasorb Jock Itch
1-Day, Monistat 1 Simple Therapy, Vagistat-1
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