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5 Vaginal Yeast Infection Symptoms Every Woman Should Know About

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If you have a vagina, chances are you've had a yeast infection—and if you haven't had one yet, the likelihood that you will at some point in your life is pretty high. Vaginal yeast infections are the second most common type of vaginal infection (after bacterial vaginal infections), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's estimated that three out of four women will experience at least one in her lifetime. Half of those women will have at least one recurrence. Fun times!

The good news: This fungal infection, which occurs when there's an overgrowth of candida, a yeast that lives in other parts of the body, isn't super dangerous, explains Barb DePree, M.D., of Lakeshore Health Partners in Holland, MI. "That yeast naturally inhabits the vaginas of healthy women. Without symptoms caused by the inflammation, there's no reason to 'treat' the presence of yeast. But when the yeast overgrows, it can cause vulvovaginal candidiasis or yeast vulvovaginitis—aka an 'infection.'" 

The bad news: The signs and symptoms of a yeast infection can be really, really uncomfortable. If you're experiencing any of the yeast infection symptoms below, it's time to take action. While yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter medication, severe yeast infection symptoms could be masking a different type of infection, says Dr. DePree. If you're experiencing anything beyond itching, or any these symptoms elevate in intensity, start with a call to your ob-gyn.

Severe Itching

This would be subjective depending on the woman, says Dr. DePree, but if you feel like all of a sudden there's a down-there itch you just can't scratch or you constantly have the urge to grab your junk like some skater bro, a yeast infection could be to blame. "I tell women if it doesn't itch, it likely isn't yeast," says Dr. DePree. (Related: The 5 Biggest Yeast Infection Myths—Debunked

Thick Discharge

Most women experience discharge of some kind, but the kind that comes with a yeast infection is pretty distinctive. "It's classically described as white, thick, clumpy or curd-like, with minimal or no odor," says Dr. DePree. Lovely. But you can have a yeast infection with little to no discharge, or it could be thin and watery and indistinguishable from discharge that comes with other vaginal issues. "Like so many things, there isn't a single predicted physical response," she says. It's important to pay attention to your body and know what's normal for you.

Irritated Skin

By definition, a yeast infection is inflammation in the vagina and vulva, the tissue surrounding the vagina. With the infection, "the skin of the vulva is often reddened and the vagina can be reddened and inflamed," explains Dr. DePree. About a quarter of women will experience abraded skin or fissures in the skin, she adds. So if things look or feel swollen, that could be an indicator that something is out of whack.

Pain During Urination

Yeast infections can be vulvar (external) or vaginal (internal), so you might not be able to see inflamed, irritated, or abraded skin. But oh, will you feel it when you use the bathroom. "As urine comes in contact with the inflamed skin, there can be burning at that site," Dr. DePree says.

Pain During Sex

There are a number of reasons sex could hurt, and a yeast infection could be to blame. "The vulva is more often going to be the source of the pain—if it's sore and itching, that would make sex painful," says Dr. DePree. But it would be uncommon for painful sex to be the only symptom related to a yeast infection, she adds.

 

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