Vaginal yeast infections may cause the following symptoms:
- vaginal itch and/or soreness
- a thick cheese-like vaginal discharge, which may smell like yeast, but will not have a fishy odor, as does bacterial vaginosis
- a burning discomfort around the vaginal opening, especially if urine contacts the area
- pain, dryness or discomfort during sexual penetration
If you have any of the above or similar symptoms accompanied by fever, abdominal pain, or foul-smelling discharge, see your health care professional. Be aware that not all vaginal itches signal a yeast infection; there are a variety of conditions that can cause itching. Remember, too, that a woman's vagina normally produces a discharge that is usually described as clear or slightly cloudy, non-irritating and having a mild odor. During the normal menstrual cycle, the amount and consistency of discharge may vary. At one time of the month, there may be a small amount of a very thin or watery discharge and at another time, a more extensive thicker discharge may appear. All of these descriptions could be considered normal. However, a vaginal discharge that has an offensive odor or that is irritating is usually an abnormal discharge. The irritation might be itching or burning or both. The itching may be present at any time of the day but it is often most bothersome at night. Both of these symptoms are usually made worse by having sexual intercourse.
Once you describe your symptoms, your health care professional will perform a gynecological examination and check your vagina for inflammation and abnormal discharge. He or she may also take a sample of the vaginal discharge for laboratory examination under a microscope or for a yeast culture, a test to see if Candida fungi grow under laboratory conditions. Looking under a microscope also helps rule out other causes of discharge such as bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis, which require different treatment.
Resist the temptation to douche to relieve your symptoms. Douching disrupts the vagina's natural bacterial balance. Women should not douche regularly. In rare occasions your health care professional may recommend a douche to remove a large amount of candidal discharge.
Copyright 2003. National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC).