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. Vaginal yeast infections are common among growing girls, and about 75% of all females will have one at some point.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Vaginal Yeast Infections?

Vaginal yeast infections can cause pain, itching, redness, a thick white vaginal discharge, pain during urination (peeing), and sometimes whitish patches on the skin of the vaginal area.

If your daughter has a vaginal yeast infection, her doctor can prescribe treatment to clear up the symptoms in a couple of days and cure the infection within a week.

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's immune system is weakened (from an illness or medicines like chemotherapy.
  • A girl takes antibiotics for a bacterial infection (such as strep throat) (the antibiotics can kill off the "good" bacteria that keep the Candida in check).
  • A girl has high blood sugar. Girls whose diabetes isn't well-controlled are more likely to get yeast infections.
  • A girl wears clothing (especially underwear) that's too tight or made of materials like nylon that trap heat and moisture.

As girls mature and go through puberty, hormonal changes can put them at risk for yeast infections — sometimes, girls get yeast infections right before their menstrual periods. Pregnant women are also more prone to yeast infections.

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.

Yeast infections can happen to any girl, and they're not considered sexually transmitted infections, although they may be able to be spread from one sexual partner to the other.

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 the infection within a week.

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. But there's no scientific proof that doing these things prevents 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 your daughter's condition. And taking antibiotics when they are not needed can make yeast infections more likely.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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