Unfortunately, the symptoms of vaginal yeast infections are “nonspecific.”
This means that it is not possible to use the symptoms alone to make a diagnosis, because all these symptoms can also be caused by other organisms, and some of the infections with similar symptoms are a lot more serious than a Candida yeast infection.
The most common symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection (yeast vaginitis) are:
- Itching and burning in the vagina and vulva.
- Soreness, swelling and pain around the vulva.
- Pain during intercourse or urination.
- Vaginal discharge. This discharge is not always present, but if there is a discharge it will be odorless or smell like baker’s yeast, and usually has a whitish, thick appearance.
It seems as though these symptoms are pretty obvious. That’s why so many women self-diagnose their own infections and purchase anti-fungal medication at their drugstore without seeing a doctor first. Unfortunately, studies have shown that as much as two-thirds of the non-prescription medications for yeast infections are being used by women who don’t have yeast infections. In fact, they have another type of vaginal infection that could become a serious threat to their health if left untreated.
Treating yourself with antifungal medication when you don’t have a yeast infection can be harmful for two important reasons:
- The most obvious reason is that the microbe or parasite that you really have won’t be cured by an anti fungal medication, and it could get worse if it isn’t treated. The symptoms of microbial infections can disappear after a short time, so you may think your anti-fungal treatment worked – but the underlying infection is still there and could cause permanent damage to your reproductive organs. It’s always best to know for sure.
- The second reason has long-term health benefits, and it’s so important that I tend to repeat it fairly often in this report. When you use an anti-fungal medication when you don’t need to, your resident yeast population evolves (mutates) to deal with the threat. Your yeast can then become drug-resistant. Your next real yeast infection can then be much more difficult to treat.
The best course of action if you find you have some or all of the common symptoms of vaginal yeast infections is to make an appointment with your doctor. Even if your doctor finds, though a quick lab test, that you do have a yeast infection, be sure to find out if there may be another condition or risk factor that may be causing your infection. The symptoms of vaginal yeast infections are no fun, but rushing to self-treat may be exactly the wrong thing to do.