If you are a woman, the odds are high that you’ve had at least one yeast infection—and if you are among the lucky few who haven’t, it’s likely that you will get one someday. It is usually recognizable by itchiness, inflammation, and general discomfort in the vaginal area. Though they happen more frequently in women, men can get them, too, in the groin.
For women, a yeast infection occurs when the delicate balance of good bacteria and naturally occurring yeast in and around the vagina is disrupted. The possible causes of infection are numerous. They range from changes in the physical environment, like sitting for too long in a wet bathing suit, to changes in life circumstances, like severe stress or lack of sleep. They are also more common during pregnancy and after a course of antibiotics.
Most yeast infections can be treated with a short course of anti-fungal cream or oral medication, but some cases may require longer, intense treatment. Women should avoid self-diagnosing and self-treating with over-the-counter medicine. It’s important to note that other infections, like those that are sexually transmitted, can resemble yeast infections. To avoid treating the wrong problem, it’s best to get a firm diagnosis from your doctor.
At Yale Medicine, we use a test that can recognize the most common Candida micro-organisms responsible for yeast infections, as well as more rare variants, such as C. glabrata and C. Krusei. “We can usually find the relevant species in less than one day, which allows for an accurate diagnosis and prompt symptom relief for our patients,” says Yale Medicine pathologist Angelique Levi, MD.