Vaginal Yeast Infection

HealthLinkBC File Number: 
Last Updated: 
November 2013

What is a vaginal yeast infection?

A vaginal yeast infection is a common infection caused by the overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. This overgrowth can be caused by many factors, some of which include:

  • taking antibiotics or corticosteroids;
  • taking birth control pills;
  • pregnancy; or
  • high blood sugar from uncontrolled diabetes.

Yeast infections are not usually spread during sex.

What are the symptoms?

In women, the vagina may become very itchy and sore. Sometimes a cottage cheese-like discharge will appear. The vagina may become red and dry, which could make sexual intercourse painful.

Men can also get yeast infections, most often as a rash under the foreskin or on the penis. The foreskin or penis may also be itchy or irritated.

Other vaginal infections, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and some scented soaps, feminine hygiene products or deodorant sprays can cause symptoms similar to a vaginal yeast infection. Seek the advice of your health care provider before treating yourself if:

  • you are pregnant,
  • you are unsure if your symptoms are those of a yeast infection,
  • this is your first yeast infection, or
  • you have repeated symptoms of yeast infections.

How is a vaginal yeast infection treated?

Treatment for yeast infections include pills taken by mouth, or creams, ointments or tablets that are inserted into the vagina. Some treatments require a prescription from your health care provider while others can be bought off the shelf at the pharmacy.

What are ways I can prevent getting a vaginal yeast infection?

To avoid getting a yeast infection you should:

  • avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics;
  • avoid douching;
  • avoid excessive amounts of high sugar foods and control your diabetes; and
  • wear loose-fitting cotton clothing.

How can I reduce my chance of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

Practice safe sex by using a condom

When used as directed, male and female condoms help prevent the spread of many STIs, including HIV, during vaginal, anal and oral sex. Condoms are less effective at protecting against STIs transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, such as herpes simplex, genital warts (human papillomavirus or HPV), and syphilis.

Important things to remember when using condoms:

  • Check the condom package for damage and to ensure the expiry date has not passed.
  • Carefully open the package so that the condom does not tear.
  • Keep condoms away from sharp objects such as rings, studs, or piercings.
  • Store condoms at room temperature.
  • A new condom should be used every time you have sex.
  • Use only water-based lubricants with male latex condoms. Oil-based lubricants, such as petroleum jelly, lotion, or baby oil can weaken and destroy latex.
  • Avoid using spermicides containing nonoxynol-9 (N-9). It irritates sexual tissue and may increase the chance of getting an STI.

Get vaccinated

Some STIs, such as hepatitis A, B and human papillomavirus (HPV) can be prevented with vaccines. Talk to your health care provider about how to get these vaccinations.

Know your sexual health status

If you have recently changed sexual partners, or have multiple sex partners, getting regularly tested for STIs will tell you if you have an infection. Finding and treating an STI, (including HIV) reduces the chances of passing the infection on to your partner.

The more partners you have, the more likely you are to be exposed to a sexually transmitted infection.

Talk about prevention

Talk to your partner about STIs and how you would like to prevent them before having sex. If you are having trouble discussing safer sex with your partner, talk about it with your health care provider or a counselor.

For tips on how to talk to your partner, visit the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) Smart Sex Resource at

Informing Partners

If you have a sexually transmitted infection and are sexually active, it is important to tell your sexual partners. This will enable them to make decisions about their health and getting tested.

For More Information

For more information on how you can reduce your chance of getting an STI, see HealthLinkBC File #08o Preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

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Is it an emergency?

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If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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