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Vaginal Yeast Infections

By HealthLife Contributor
Updated: June 30, 2008
It might sound a little strange, but yeast cells are tenants in every vagina. For the most part, yeast cells cause women no ill effects because they exist in very small numbers. Problems associated with yeast infections occur when the numbers of these little guys grow out of control. When a woman has a yeast infection, the result can be an indescribably uncomfortable feeling that includes an itching sensation and a cottage cheese-like discharge.

Although some would consider the symptoms of a yeast infection to be rather serious, the truth is that vaginal yeast infections are rather common, easily treatable and preventable, and are typically more annoying than anything else.

Yeast infections are caused by a type of yeast known as Candida albicans. This yeast typically lives in small numbers in the vagina, where another small organism known as Lactobacillus acidophilus actually helps keep the yeast cells from growing out of control. Lactobacillus is actually a bacteria that serves to keep the number of yeast cells from getting too high.

Sometimes, the number of these beneficial bacteria gets very low, and they are unable to keep the yeast cells from reproducing and growing out of control. This usually happens when an individual is taking certain antibiotics, since these drugs are actually designed to kill off certain bacteria. High levels of estrogen during pregnancy, diabetes, and HIV can also cause the levels of beneficial bacteria to drop. When the numbers of beneficial bacteria are changed, the internal balance of the vagina is changed, with yeast cells quickly growing out of control.
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When a woman is suffering from a yeast infection, she will often have several symptoms, including a burning and itching sensation that can sometimes cause a woman pain during sex or urination. In addition, a yeast infection can also create, in some women, a white discharge. An untreated yeast infection can also lead to the development of a very strong odor.

Since yeast infections are so common, most women actually do the diagnosing themselves. For the most part, women are able to recognize the symptoms of a yeast infection and are able to differentiate the infection from another potential condition, especially if a woman has in fact already had to deal with one or several infection over her lifetime. However, to be certain that a yeast infection is just that and nothing more, some women often make the choice of seeing a doctor and having that doctor take a sample of the cells in the vagina (known as a culture) in order to determine what is in fact causing the discomfort.

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