Yeast Infections: Signs, Symptoms & Diagnosis

Vaginal yeast infections can be uncomfortable and annoying but are usually not a serious condition. Most women do show symptoms, but it is possible for an infection to be present without them. If you develop a yeast infection, you will most likely experience one or more of the following:

  • White, thick discharge from the vagina (which may resemble cottage cheese)
  • Itching or irritation in the vagina or around the vulva (the skin that surrounds your vagina)
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Erythema (redness of the area that surrounds the vagina)
  • Rash on the outer vaginal lips

Symptoms of yeast infection are generally the same for everyone. However, there can be variations from one person to the next. For instance, you may have more discharge whereas another woman may experience more irritation and redness.

It is important to note that vaginal tissues are often more sensitive prior to menstruation. Feelings of itchiness during this time may simply be a part of your body's normal fluctuations. If itchiness subsides after menstruation, treatment for yeast infection is usually not necessary.

Male partners of patients with vaginal yeast infection do not typically experience any symptoms of the condition. Rarely, a burning sensation and/or a transient rash on the penis may occur following unprotected intercourse.

The symptoms of a yeast infection can be similar to a more serious condition, such as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is therefore important that symptoms are reported to a physician, especially if one of the following is true:

  • You are having these symptoms for the first time.
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding. (If so, some treatments may not be appropriate for you.)
  • You use latex condoms and/or a diaphragm for birth control. (Some treatments may impact the effectiveness of these methods.)
  • You are experiencing recurrent yeast infections. (Chronic vaginal yeast infections are sometimes the first sign of diabetes in women.)

Diagnosis of yeast infections

Most women can self-diagnose a yeast infection based on their symptoms. This is especially true with women who have experienced yeast infections in the past. If you are exhibiting these symptoms for the first time, however, it is important that you seek medical attention for an accurate diagnosis.

Your physician, usually a gynecologist, will suspect a yeast infection based upon your symptoms. You will receive a pelvic examination, and your physician will look for vaginal discharge and inflammation in and around your vagina.

In addition, your physician may take a sample of the vaginal discharge for a slide test. In this test, vaginal secretions are examined under a microscope for the presence of yeast organisms. The test is sufficient for diagnosing yeast infections in first-time sufferers and those with occasional infections.

Cases of recurrent or resistant yeast infections may require further analysis in the form of a vaginal culture. The advanced culture is used to identify other forms of vaginitis as well as STDs. A vaginal culture also helps the diagnosis and treatment of less typical fungal infections that may be resistant to common yeast therapies.

Once the condition is accurately diagnosed, treatment usually resolves symptoms in a matter of days. Remember that if you are experiencing multiple, recurring yeast infections, you should consult your gynecologist.

Last updated 24 March 2012

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