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Candidiasis, also known as a "yeast infection", is a common cause of vaginal irritation. In addition, 12 to 15 percent of men develop symptoms after sexual contact with an infected partner. This infection is caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida albicans in the vagina. Candida is yeast, which is a type of fungus.
Yeast are always present in the vagina in small numbers, and symptoms only appear with overgrowth. Health experts estimate that approximately 75 percent of women will have at least one yeast infection with symptoms during their lifetimes; 40 to 45 percent will experience two or more episodes.
The most frequent symptoms of yeast infection in women are itching, burning, and irritation of the vagina. Painful urination and painful intercourse also are common.
Vaginal discharge is not always present and may only be present in small amounts. The thick, whitish-gray discharge is typically described as cottage-cheese-like, although it can vary from watery to thick.
Most male partners of women with yeast infections do not have any symptoms of the infection. Some men, however, have reported temporary rashes and burning sensations of the penis after intercourse if they did not use condoms.
Because few specific signs and symptoms of yeast infections are usually present, health care providers cannot diagnose this condition by a person’s medical history and physical examination. They usually diagnose yeast infection by examining vaginal secretions under a microscope for evidence of yeast.
Various antifungal vaginal medicines are available to treat yeast infections. Women can buy antifungal creams to be applied directly to the area, tablets to be taken orally, or suppositories (butoconazole, miconazole, clotrimazole, and tioconazole) for use in the vagina.
Because bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and yeast infections are difficult to tell apart on the basis of symptoms alone, a woman with vaginal symptoms should see her health care provider for an accurate diagnosis before using these products.
Women who have chronic or recurring yeast infections may need to be treated with vaginal creams or oral medicines for long periods of time. HIV-infected women can develop severe yeast infections that often do not respond to treatment.