What is a Female Yeast Infection?

J.M. Willhite
J.M. Willhite
Yeast infections may be treated with over-the-counter medication taken in the form of vaginal suppositories.
Yeast infections may be treated with over-the-counter medication taken in the form of vaginal suppositories.

A vaginal infection that results from exposure to the Candida albicans fungus is known simply as a female yeast infection. Responsible for many forms of fungal-based infection, the presence of Candida albicans can significantly disrupt the delicate bacterial balance within the vagina, leading to the development of infection. Often causing discomfort and irritation, a female yeast infection can necessitate a visit to a physician for examination and treatment. When home treatment is not possible due to the severity of the female yeast infection, medical treatment can involve the administration of an antibiotic or, in some cases, long-term treatment to prevent recurrent infection.

Today, there are oral medications that can be used to treat female yeast infections.
Today, there are oral medications that can be used to treat female yeast infections.

The fungus Candida albicans is a naturally occurring organism within the human body. The presence of bacteria and fungi within the body requires the right conditions to maintain a delicate balance that is healthy and beneficial to the body and its various processes. When conditions are disrupted due to the presence of disease, infection, or some other physiological change, bacteria and fungi may reproduce unchecked, leading to the development of infection. Such is the case with Candida albicans, which can multiply exponentially when given the right circumstances.

Naturally found in trace amounts within the vagina, Candida albicans most commonly overproduces in the presence of antibiotic use. Women whose body undergoes drastic physiological changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy, oftentimes develop a female yeast infection in response to the disruption of microorganisms within their system. In some cases, the presence of disease can also make certain individuals more susceptible to developing a vaginal fungal infection.

Most female yeast infections are mild in their presentation and may be treated at home with an over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal topical medication or suppository intended to treat a female yeast infection. When symptoms do not respond to treatment or are severe in their presentation, medical attention should be sought. Following an initial consultation, a physician will generally conduct a pelvic examination to evaluate the condition of the vaginal area. Usually, a small portion of one’s vaginal discharge may also be taken and submitted for laboratory analysis to verify the infection is fungal-based and caused by Candida albicans.

Individuals with a female yeast infection often present with patterned symptoms associated with the presence of Candida albicans fungus. It is not uncommon for the individual to develop abnormal vaginal discharge that may vary in its presentation from diluted to opaque and thick. Women who develop this condition may also experience swelling and irritation within the vagina and surrounding area. Additional signs of a female yeast infection may include pain and discomfort that manifests when urinating or engaging in intercourse and an odor that presents with the vaginal discharge.

Medical treatment often administered for a female yeast infection is generally dependent on the severity of one’s symptoms. In most cases, an oral antibiotic may be prescribed to be taken in its entirety to ensure the elimination of infection. Individuals are often given suggestions on ways to manage their vaginal discharge and prevent further irritation until the infection is gone, including wearing appropriate undergarments that will not irritate symptoms, proper self-cleansing practices, and avoiding the use of certain hygiene products. Those who are susceptible to recurrent infection may be placed on long-term antibiotic therapy that may be administered as an oral tablet or vaginal suppository.

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    • Yeast infections may be treated with over-the-counter medication taken in the form of vaginal suppositories.
      Yeast infections may be treated with over-the-counter medication taken in the form of vaginal suppositories.
    • Today, there are oral medications that can be used to treat female yeast infections.
      Today, there are oral medications that can be used to treat female yeast infections.