A fungus, candida albicans, causes yeast infections. Disturbances in hormone levels during pregnancy, use of the birth control pill, and the change in the normal pH level of the vagina experienced during menstruation can all lead to a yeast infection. Any disturbance that changes the balance of bacteria and microorganisms in the vagina can lead to a yeast infection.
Both men and women can get a yeast infection. Men typically experience no symptoms, however, some may experience irritation of the glans (head of the penis). In women, yeast infections typically cause an intense itching and burning sensation, localized in the vagina and vulva. This itching may not always be present, but if present it can become very severe. Usually with the itching comes a clumpy, curded, and white vaginal discharge. However, the discharge can range from thick and not clumpy to faintly yellow to thin and clear. A sure sign that you have a yeast infection is by the odor; nothing else has a similar smell. Yeast infections smell like bread or beer; however, the yeast used in baking and brewing is an entirely different species (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).
Yeast infections can happen to any woman, and they're not related to having sex — although they occasionally can be spread from one sexual partner to the other. This is quite rare, though, and the partner of someone who has a yeast infection does not automatically have to be treated. Yeast infections that are spread through sex are NOT considered a Sexually Transmitted Disease/Infection (STD/STI).
There are many popular non-prescription treatments for yeast infections. Anti-fungal creams, vaginal suppositories and medicated tampons are usually all available at your local pharmacy. The most common creams are miconazole, clotrimazole and econazole. Medicated tampons exist and are often found to be less messy. For extreme pain and discomfort, your physician may wish to prescribe a mild steroid cream. Please contact your physician to discuss the best solution for you.