What Are Vaginal Yeast Infections?
Yeast infections (also known as candidiasis) are common infections caused by Candida albicans yeast, which is a type of fungus Yeast infections usually happen in warm, moist parts of the body, such as the mouth, and moist areas of skin.
A yeast infection in the vagina is known as vulvovaginal candidiasis (can-dih-DYE-uh-sis). Vaginal yeast infections are common, and many girls will have one at some point. Treatment can clear up the symptoms in a couple of days and cure the infection within a week..
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Vaginal Yeast Infections?
Vaginal yeast infections can cause:
- redness, swelling, or itching of the vulva (the folds of skin outside the vagina)
- a thick, white discharge that can look like cottage cheese
- pain or burning when urinating (peeing)
What Causes Vaginal Yeast Infections?
Having small amounts of Candida on the skin and inside the mouth, digestive tract, and vagina is normal. A healthy immune system and some "good" bacteria keep the amount in a person's body under control.
But yeast in the vagina can sometimes "overgrow" and lead to symptoms of a yeast infection. This can happen if a girl:
- has a weak immune system from an illness or medicines like chemotherapy
- takes antibiotics for a bacterial infection (such as strep throat). The antibiotics can kill off the "good" bacteria that keep the Candida in check.
- has high blood sugar. Girls whose diabetes isn't well-controlled are more likely to get yeast infections.
- wears clothing (especially underwear) that is too tight or made of materials like nylon that trap heat and moisture
As girls mature and go through puberty, hormonal changes can make them more likely to get yeast infections. Sometimes, girls get yeast infections right before their menstrual periods. Pregnant women are also more likely to get them. Yeast infections are not an STD (sexually transmitted disease).
Young girls who haven't gone through puberty yet are less likely to get yeast infections, but they can happen. So if your young daughter complains of itching or discomfort in her vaginal area, it's important to talk with her doctor.
How Are Vaginal Yeast Infections Diagnosed?
If your daughter has any symptoms of a yeast infection — like itchiness or abnormal vaginal discharge — she should see her doctor or gynecologist. Other infections can cause similar symptoms but require different treatments.
The doctor might take a urine sample to rule out a urinary tract infection (UTI) and swab some vaginal discharge to examine under a microscope.
How Are Vaginal Yeast Infections Treated?
If your daughter does have a yeast infection, her doctor can prescribe a medicine to take by mouth or a vaginal cream, tablet, or suppository that will quickly clear up the symptoms in a few days and get rid of the infection within a week. It's important that your daughter takes the medicine for the whole time that her doctor prescribes. If she stops taking it too soon, the infection could come back.
Anyone using a vaginal treatment should not have sex until the infection is completely cleared — these medicines can weaken condoms and diaphragms.
If your daughter is not feeling better within a few days of finishing treatment, call the doctor.
Can Vaginal Yeast Infections Be Prevented?
For most girls, there's no way to prevent yeast infections. Girls may feel more comfortable and have less irritation if they wear breathable cotton underwear and loose clothes and avoid vaginal sprays and douches. Wearing cotton underwear may also help prevent yeast infections. If your daughter has diabetes, keeping her blood sugar levels under control will help her avoid getting yeast infections.
If you think your daughter has an infection, call your doctor for advice. Don't give her leftover antibiotics or someone else's antibiotics or medicine because they be the wrong choice for her condition. And taking antibiotics when they are not needed can make a girl more likely to get yeast infections.