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Understanding Vaginal Candidiasis: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention


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Understanding Vaginal Candidiasis: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Learn about vaginal candidiasis, its causes, symptoms, and effective prevention methods. Discover how to diagnose and treat this common infection.

Get insights from trusted healthcare guidelines.


Vaginal candidiasis, commonly referred to as a vaginal yeast infection, is an ailment caused by an overgrowth of Candida, a type of yeast or fungus.

Normally residing on the skin and within the body, such as the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina, Candida doesn’t typically cause issues.

However, changes in vaginal conditions, including shifts in hormones, medications, or immune system responses, can trigger Candida growth, leading to infection.

This infection is often termed vaginal candidiasis, vulvovaginal candidiasis, or candidal vaginitis.

Symptoms of Vaginal Candidiasis

Common symptoms associated with vaginal candidiasis include:

  1. Vaginal itching or soreness
  2. Discomfort during sexual intercourse
  3. Painful urination
  4. Unusual vaginal discharge

In many cases, vaginal candidiasis manifests mildly. However, severe infections can result in redness, swelling, and even vaginal wall cracks.

If you experience these symptoms, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare provider.

Identifying vaginal candidiasis is essential as its symptoms can overlap with those of other vaginal infections.

Medical professionals can accurately diagnose and guide you through appropriate treatment methods.

Risk Factors and Prevention

Certain factors increase the risk of developing vaginal candidiasis, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • Use of hormonal contraceptives (e.g., birth control pills)
  • Diabetes
  • Weakened immune system (e.g., due to HIV infection or medications like steroids)
  • Recent or current antibiotic use

Preventive measures include wearing cotton underwear to lower the risk of yeast infections.

Given that antibiotic usage can contribute to vaginal candidiasis, it’s important to take antibiotics only as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Understanding when antibiotics are necessary can aid in infection prevention.

Diagnosis and Testing

Healthcare providers diagnose the infection by analyzing a small sample of vaginal discharge.

This sample is examined under a microscope or sent to a laboratory for fungal culture. It’s worth noting that a positive fungal culture doesn’t always correlate with symptomatic Candida presence.

Effective Treatment Approaches

For treating vaginal candidiasis, antifungal medications are usually prescribed. Common treatments include:

  1. Application of antifungal medicine within the vagina
  2. Single oral dose of fluconazole

In cases of severe infection, lack of improvement, or recurrent infections, alternative treatments such as additional oral fluconazole doses or vaginal application of boric acid, nystatin, or flucytosine may be recommended.


The infection is widespread, ranking as the second most common vaginal infection in the United States, preceded only by bacterial vaginal infections.

Annually, approximately 1.4 million outpatient visits address vaginal candidiasis. However, the precise number of cases remains unknown.

For healthcare providers, relevant resources include the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s Clinical Practice Guidelines for Candidiasis Management and the CDC’s 2021 Sexually Transmitted Infections Treatment Guidelines for Vulvovaginal Candidiasis.


  1. Gonçalves B, Ferreira C, Alves CT, Henriques M, Azeredo J, Silva S. Vulvovaginal candidiasis: epidemiology, microbiology and risk factors. Criti Rev Microbiol 2016;42:905-27.
  2. Sobel JD. Vulvovaginal candidosis. Lancet 2007;369:1961-71.
  3. Pappas PG, Kauffman CA, Andes DR, Clark CJ, Marr KA, Ostrosky-Zeichner L, et al. Clinical practice guideline for the management of candidiasis: 2016 update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis 2016;62:e1-50.
  4. Benedict K, Jackson BR, Chiller T, Beer KD. Estimation of direct healthcare costs of fungal diseases in the United States. Clin Infect Dis. 2018 Sep 10.


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