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Symptoms of a yeast infection

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It's an itchy feeling you might hardly notice at first. Maybe, you muse, it's just that your jeans are too tight. Actually, tight jeans may have something to do with it. But if the itch keeps getting itchier, even when your jeans have been off for awhile, then there's something else involved.

Woman at Doctor's Office

It could be a yeast infection

That something else could very well be a fungus whose technical name is Candida, and which causes what is often called a "yeast" infection. Such infections are most common in teenage girls and women aged 16 to 35, although they can occur in girls as young as 10 or 11 and in older women (and less often, in men and boys as well). You do not have to be sexually active to get a yeast infection.

The Food and Drug Administration now allows medicines that used to be prescription-only to be sold without a prescription to treat vaginal yeast infections that keep coming back. But before you run out and buy one, if you've never been treated for a yeast infection you should see a doctor. Your doctor may advise you to use one of the over-the-counter products or may prescribe a drug called Diflucan (fluconazole). FDA recently approved the drug, a tablet taken by mouth, for clearing up yeast infections with just one dose.

Symptoms of a yeast infection

Though itchiness is a main symptom of yeast infections, if you've never had one before, it's hard to be sure just what's causing your discomfort. After a doctor makes a diagnosis of vaginal yeast infection, if you should have one again, you can more easily recognize the symptoms that make it different from similar problems. If you have any doubts, though, you should contact your doctor.

In addition to intense itching, another symptom of a vaginal yeast infection is a white curdy or thick discharge that is mostly odorless. Although some women have discharges midway between their menstrual periods, these are usually not yeast infections, especially if there's no itching.

Other symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include:

  • soreness
  • rash on outer lips of the vagina
  • burning, especially during urination.

It's important to remember that not all girls and women experience all these symptoms, and if intense itching is not present, it's probably something else.

Why do yeast infections occur?

Candida is a fungus often present in the human body. It only causes problems when there's too much of it. Then infections can occur not only in the vagina but in other parts of the body as well -- and in both sexes. Though there are four different types of Candida that can cause these infections, nearly 80 percent are caused by a variety called Candida albicans.

Keep reading for ways to prevent and treat a yeast infection

Causes and cures of a yeast infection
Your very personal health at 20, 30 and 40
New research on cranberry juice benefits

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