When to See a Doctor for a Yeast Infection
Most women will have a vaginal yeast infection at some point in their lives. These itchy, irritating infections, known as candidiasis, are usually caused by the fungal species Candida albicans. Most C. albicans yeast infections are mild and can be treated at home, but there are times when you should seek professional medical advice.
Most women have yeast in their vaginas. Bacteria naturally present in the vagina usually control, or balance the amount of yeast. When the balance between yeast and bacteria is disrupted, the yeast can overgrow or penetrate deeper layers of the body. Yeast infections cause itching and vaginal discharge.
Among the causes of the imbalance that lead to infection are:
STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases, can cause symptoms similar to yeast infections, as can hemorrhoids and low estrogen levels. A healthcare provider can evaluate your symptoms and test the vaginal discharge to rule out other possible conditions.
If you are experiencing itching or burning in the vagina, or there is a thick, white discharge, you may have a yeast infection. If you are not pregnant and the symptoms are mild, you can treat it yourself with an over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal medication. If it’s not bothering you, monitor the condition to see if it goes away on its own. Don’t wear tight pants or tight underwear and keep the area clean and dry while you have symptoms.
When you are using an OTC antifungal cream or suppository, the oils in the medicine may weaken the rubber of condoms and diaphragms. This can make them less effective, so take appropriate birth control measures.
Though yeast infections rarely lead to serious health concerns, there are times when you should see your healthcare provider. Contact your provider if:
You are pregnant, because you can pass the infection to your baby.
You are not sure it’s a yeast infection.
It is the first time you are experiencing symptoms of a yeast infection.
You think it could be an STD or bacterial infection.
You get them frequently—four or more infections a year—your doctor can perform tests to see if there is an underlying cause such as diabetes. It is also possible another type of yeast is causing the infection and you need a different antifungal treatment.
You can see your primary care doctor or your gynecologist, either of whom can treat a yeast infection. If you are pregnant, call your obstetrician. Gynecologic nurse practitioners, midwives, and physician assistants also treat yeast infections.
A yeast infection can be troublesome, but this common condition usually responds well to antifungal treatment. If you decide to treat it at home (without going to the doctor), be aware of symptoms that don’t go away within the time frame indicated by the label of your OTC medicine. Instead, call your doctor, who may suggest a prescription medication instead. There are also oral antifungals that may be more effective than a cream or suppository.