Yeast Infection Patient Information Fact Sheet

What is a yeast infection?
Yeast infection, also known as vaginal candidiasis or vaginal thrust, is an infection caused by a fungus (yeast) called Candida albicans. Candida albicans is present naturally in the intestines and vagina but in certain circumstances overgrowth of the organism may occur causing an infection. A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD) but it can be passed on to a sexual partner. About 75% of women have at least one episode during their lives.

What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?
All women have a natural vaginal discharge. If there are any changes in the nature of the normal discharge an infection may be present. The first time a woman has a yeast infection she will normally seek medical advice to confirm that it is in fact a yeast infection and not another type of vaginal infection. Some women suffer from recurrent a yeast infections and learn to recognize the start of symptoms very quickly.

There is usually a thick, white discharge which is often described as resembling cottage cheese. The discharge caused by a yeast infection should not smell and should not change color; if it smells or changes color this may indicate a different type of infection. The discharge may become quite heavy and can cause severe vulval itching. The vulva may become inflamed and swollen. Sexual intercourse can be very uncomfortable and it may hurt to pass urine. Although it is not a serious condition, a yeast infection can be very uncomfortable and needs treatment.

What causes a yeast infection?
A yeast infection occurs when the normal balance between the micro-organisms naturally found in the vagina is disturbed. An imbalance can be triggered by a number of things and some women are more prone to developing a yeast infection than others. Some antibiotics can kill the “friendly” bacteria as well as the harmful bacteria for which they have been prescribed. The “friendly” bacteria maintain an acidic environment in the vagina that prevents Candida albicans from multiplying. When the balance becomes upset, for example, by antibiotics, the fungus is able to multiply and a yeast infection develops. Some women may need to take a course of antifungal treatment whenever they have to take antibiotics to prevent a yeast infection from occurring.