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What are yeast infections? How do you get rid of them?

Yeast is a normal organism in the body; this includes the vagina. Sometimes too much yeast grows and can cause an infection. This can happen for different reasons.

Sometimes antibiotics—medicine taken for bacterial illnesses—can actually lead to a yeast infection. That’s because some antibiotics, while killing off “bad” bacteria, kill the “good” bacteria that keep yeast from growing too much. Changes in hormone levels—either from pregnancy or taking birth control pills—can also contribute to yeast infections. Yeast infections can also occur as a result of the vulva being damp for a long period of time (like staying in a wet bathing suit or exercise clothes for a long time).

Some girls get yeast infections more than others. To reduce the chances of getting one, avoid wearing very tight pants and non-cotton underwear and try not to stay in wet clothes (a bathing suit or sweaty exercise clothes) for too long. Also, after going to the bathroom, be sure to wipe from front to back because wiping from back to front may spread bacteria from the anus to the vagina and cause a yeast infection or a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Usually, the first symptom of a yeast infection is redness and itching around the vulva and inside the vagina. There can also be white, thick, clumpy discharge that looks like cottage cheese but doesn’t smell. The vulva can be tender and sore or it may hurt to pee or have sex.

Yeast infections can usually be treated with antifungal creams or suppositories (medicine inserted into the vagina). This medicine can be bought without a prescription at most drugstores or supermarkets, but before you try to treat a yeast infection, visit your health care provider to make sure you actually have a yeast infection. There are also prescription medicines available to treat a yeast infection that won’t go away with medicines you can get in stores.

Sometimes, though, a girl may think she has a yeast infection when in fact it may be a sexually transmitted disease (STD). This is because the symptoms of a yeast infection, like discharge from the vagina and burning and itching in the vagina or around the vulva, are also common symptoms of STDs. So even if you think you just have a yeast infection, it is best to speak with your health care provider to make sure it is not something more serious.

Avoid having sex during a yeast infection. The medicine used to treat a yeast infection can weaken latex condoms and having sex while you have a yeast infection can make the infection worse. And although yeast infections are not considered an STD, a girl can pass a yeast infection to her sexual partner. Guys can get yeast infections too, especially if they are not circumcised.

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