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Vaginal Yeast Infections

Yeast infections (also known as candidiasis) are common infections caused by candida albicans, a type of fungus.

Yeast infections usually happen in warm, moist parts of the body, such as the mouth, and moist areas of skin. When an infection is in the vagina, it is known as vulvovaginal candidiasis. Vaginal yeast infections are common among growing girls, and about 75% of all females will have one at some point in their lives.

Vaginal yeast infections can cause pain, itching, redness, a thick white vaginal discharge, pain during urination (peeing), and sometimes whitish patches on the skin of the vaginal area. Yeast infections often can be prevented by keeping the vaginal area clean and dry.

If your daughter has a vaginal yeast infection, her doctor can prescribe proper treatment that can clear up the symptoms in a couple of days and cure the infection within a week.

Causes

Candida is normally found in small amounts on the skin and inside the mouth, digestive tract, and vagina without causing a problem. The amount of candida in a person's body is kept under control by a healthy immune system and some "good" bacteria.

Symptoms appear when the candida in the body overgrows and leads to an infection. For example, if someone's immune system is weakened (due to an illness or medicines like chemotherapy or steroids), candida in the vagina can multiply and cause symptoms of a yeast infection.

Sometimes candida overgrowth happens after a girl has taken antibiotics for a bacterial infection (such as strep throat) because antibiotics can kill off the "good" bacteria that keep the candida from growing. Yeast also can overgrow if a girl's blood sugar is high. Girls who have diabetes that isn't controlled are more likely to get yeast infections.

Yeast can thrive in moist, dark environments, so clothing (especially underwear) that is too tight or made of materials like nylon that trap heat and moisture might lead to yeast infections.

As girls mature and go through puberty, hormonal changes can make them more at risk for yeast infections — sometimes, girls get yeast infections right before their menstrual periods. Pregnant women are also more prone to yeast infections. Young girls who haven't gone through puberty yet are less likely to get yeast infections, but they can happen. So if your young daughter complains of itching or discomfort in her vaginal area, it's important to talk with her doctor.

Yeast infections can happen to any girl, and they're not considered sexually transmitted infections — although they may be able to be spread from one sexual partner to the other.

Prevention

For most girls, there's no way to prevent yeast infections. Girls may feel more comfortable and have less irritation if they wear breathable cotton underwear and loose clothes and avoid vaginal sprays and douches. But there is no scientific proof that doing these things prevents yeast infections. If your daughter has diabetes, keeping her blood sugar levels well controlled will help her avoid getting yeast infections.

If you think your daughter has an infection, call your doctor for advice. Don't give her leftover antibiotics or someone else's antibiotics or medicine because these may be the wrong choice for your daughter's condition. And taking antibiotics when they are not needed can make yeast infections more likely.

Treatment

If your daughter is having any symptoms of a yeast infection, like itchiness or abnormal vaginal discharge, she should see her doctor or gynecologist. Other infections can cause similar symptoms but require different treatments. The doctor might take a urine sample (to rule out a urinary tract infection (UTI)) and swab some discharge from your daughter's vagina to examine under a microscope.

If she does have a yeast infection, her doctor can prescribe a medicine to take by mouth or a vaginal cream, tablet, or suppository that will quickly clear up the symptoms in a few days and the infection within a week. Anyone using a vaginal treatment should abstain from sex until the infection has been completely treated — these medicines can weaken condoms and diaphragms.

If your daughter is not feeling better within a few days of finishing treatment, call the doctor.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: April 2015