ASK ANDI: How Can I Tell If I Have An Yeast Infection?

Dear Andi,

How can I tell if I have a yeast infection? I'm embarrassed to go to a doctor besides my own and I'm too far away from home to make it. Should I self medicate?

Uncomfortable Down-Under

Dear Uncomfortable Down-Under,

Every girl's body is different and therefore when you get sick your body can show different combinations of symptoms. Yeast infections are frequent among women and can be treated at home. However it is important to ensure you are not sick with something else.

There is no need to be embarrassed no matter what the condition is. The doctors could care less about judging you- it is their job to treat illnesses and they will see any given illness multiple times in their average work week. Moreover, doctors are legally bound to keep patient confidentiality. The more honest you are with your physician, the better it will help your health--in any case.

I will give a brief and general overview of classic symptoms of candidiasis (yeast infection) however, only a doctor can diagnose you and determine if this is a yeast infection or some other type of illness. I suggest you make an appointment at the Dowell Health Center on campus or look for local clinics that accept your health insurance. If you are unable to find one, you should contact the local Planned Parenthood where you can possibly schedule a free pelvic examination or STI screening.

Yeast naturally occurs in the vagina, however when an offset in the pH balance of the vagina occurs, yeast can overgrow--this is a yeast infection. Many woman experience yeast infections at a regular point in their menstrual cycle, after taking antibiotics, from their oral contraceptive pill, or from wearing tight clothing for extended periods of time (spandex, wet bathing suit, etc; yeast thrive in damp environments). Yeast infections are treated most commonly by two methods. A single dose oral pill of Diflucan (fluconazole) can be prescribed to you by your doctor, or you can purchase a one to seven dose treatment of vaginal suppositories/creams at your local drugstore (most commonly miconazole nitrate or tioconazole) under the name Monistat or a generic store brand.

Symptoms of yeast infections vary from case to case. You may have all or none of this symptoms; however symptoms are not fully indicative to determine if you have a yeast infection or something else. Classic symptoms include:

  • Vaginal discharge- odorless, thick, clumpy, white in color; similar to cottage cheese
  • Vaginal itching
  • Vulvitis (irritation/inflammation of the area outside the vagina; redness, pain)
  • If you have similar symptoms there is a chance you have a yeast infection.

However, it is important to see your health care provider if you experience any of the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Greenish-yellow discharge or vaginal odor
  • Have had unprotected sex
  • Pain or burning sensation during urination
  • Fever

It is highly suggested to see a doctor because you could have another infection that requires alternative treatment. Vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and other infections down-there such as non-gonococcal urethritis, chlamydia and gonorrhea are caused by bacteria and must be treated with antibiotics. The former infections are not necessarily spread via sexual contact so do not completely disregard them if you haven't had unprotected sex. More importantly, you could have a yeast infection accompanying another infection.

The good thing about treatments for yeast infection is that, unlike taking antibiotics unnecessarily, there are virtually no harms in treating a yeast infection without diagnosis. If you have no urgent symptoms you could treat yourself for a yeast infection. If your symptoms do not go away, or if they worsen or you develop new symptoms, you should consult a physician. However, it is suggested you still see a health care provider so you can be properly diagnosed.

Don't be embarrassed. Why should getting an illness down-there be any different than catching a cold? It happens to many women and you are not alone. Doctors are here to help you. It can be uncomfortable seeing a new doctor but it is important to do what is best for your health.

If it'll help you feel more at ease, call your primary care physician and ask him or her for this same advice.

Xoxo Andi