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A yeast infection is an irritation of the genital area. It is very common and can affect everyone. Yeast is a type of fungus that is normally present in some amount in or on our bodies, usually in combination with bacteria.  Sometimes the yeast overgrows causing a yeast imbalance or ‘infection’.

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  • What causes a yeast infection?

    Often, it is impossible to know the cause of a yeast infection. Generally speaking however,   people get yeast infections because of changes in the yeast/bacteria balance and/or the pH balance (alkaline/acid). If you have a vagina, factors that can change the pH or yeast/bacterial balance include:

    • Taking antibiotics
    • Douching
    • Taking hormonal birth control
    • Having diabetes or being HIV+
    • Excessive use of soap around vagina/vulva
    • Sexual activity (but yeast is not a sexually transmitted infection)
    • Increased moisture in genital area, i.e. due to sweating or wet bathing suits
    • Menstruation or pregnancy
  • What are the symptoms?

    The most common symptoms are itchiness on the inside or outside the genitals (vagina, vulva, penis, scrotum or around the anus) as well as burning, redness, and inflammation. There may also be pain when passing urine or during sex. Often, people with yeast infections can have a thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese. This discharge normally doesn’t smell bad.

  • How is it diagnosed?

    An examination by a health care worker can often diagnose a yeast infection.  A sample of vaginal discharge may be taken and sent to the lab. If the test result shows the presence of ‘yeast’, it does not always mean that you have a ‘yeast infection’ as yeast can exist in vaginas without causing any problems or symptoms.

  • How is it treated

    Yeast in the vagina or on the head of the penis is not harmful but can be irritating or uncomfortable.  You may want to treat the yeast infection if the symptoms are bothersome.

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments

    You can treat yeast infections by using ‘over-the-counter’ (OTC) preparations. These can be used in the vagina, on the labia, or applied to the penis. You do not need a prescription to buy these. OTC vaginal preparations come in 1, 3, 5 and 7 day preparations. We recommend taking the 5 or 7 day treatment for best results.

    You can insert the anti-fungal medication into the vagina with the plastic applicators in the package. You can also use an OTC antifungal cream. Apply sparingly to the affected area if there is itching or irritation on the outside of the vagina, penis, scrotum or anus.  If the symptoms do not go away completely after you have finished using this treatment, it is advisable to see a health care provider in order to rule out any other possible causes for your symptoms.

    Another way of treating yeast infections is to take a medication by mouth. It is one pill, also available over the counter.  It takes approximately five to seven days to be effective.   It is now available over-the-counter. The medication contains 150mg of fluconazole.

  • What about my sexual partner(s)?

    Yeast is not considered a sexually transmitted infection. While it is possible to spread ‘yeast’ to your sexual partner, a yeast infection will only happen if the right conditions for yeast to grow are present.

  • Prevention

    • Keep your genitals dry
    • Retract your foreskin before urinating to keep urine from getting under your foreskin
    • Regularly wash your genitals with water; avoid using excessive amounts of soap
    • Avoid tight underwear or wearing underwear when you sleep
    • Wear cotton underwear
    • Use condoms when having intercourse or using sex toys
    • If you have a vagina, avoid douching, and scented products like bubble bath, sprays, pads, and tampons