What is yeast?
Yeast is a fungus scientifically referred to as Candida. The specific type of fungus most commonly responsible for vaginitis is Candida albicans. Yeast is commonly present on normal human skin and in areas of moisture, such as the mouth and vagina. In fact, it is estimated that between 20%-50% of healthy women normally carry yeast in the vaginal area.
What is vaginitis?
Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina. Vaginitis is very common and is reported by as many as 75% of women at some point in their lives. Vaginitis can be caused by a number of infections, including bacteria (such as Gardnerella andgonorrhea), protozoans (such astrichomonas), and yeast (Candida). Vaginal yeast infection, which is the most common form of vaginitis, is often referred to as vaginal Candidiasis.
What is vulvitis?
Vulvitis is inflammation of the external genital organs of the female (the vulva). The vulva includes the labia, clitoris, and entrance to the vagina (the vestibule of the vagina). An inflammation of the vulva is referred to as vulvitis. Vulvitis, like vaginitis, may be caused by a number of different infections. Because the vulva is also often inflamed when there is inflammation of the vagina, vaginitis is sometimes referred to as vulvovaginitis.
What causes vaginal yeast infections?
Vaginal yeast infections occur when new yeast is introduced into the vaginal area, or when there is an increase in the quantity of yeast already present in the vagina relative to the quantity of normal bacteria. For example, when the normal, protective bacteria are eradicated by antibiotics (taken to treat aurinary tract, respiratory, or other types of infection) or by immunosuppressive drugs, the yeast can multiply, invade tissues, and cause irritation of the lining of the vagina (vaginitis).
Vaginal yeast infections can also occur as a result of injury to the inner vagina, such as after chemotherapy. Also, women with suppressed immune systems (for example, those taking cortisone-related medications such asprednisone) develop vaginal yeast infections more frequently than women with normal immunity. Other conditions that may predispose women to developing vaginal yeast infections include diabetes mellitus, pregnancy, and taking oral contraceptives. The use of douches or perfumed vaginal hygiene sprays may also increase a woman's risk of developing a vaginal yeast infection.
A vaginal yeast infection is not considered to be a sexually transmitted infection (STD), since Candida may be present in the normal vagina, and the condition does occur in celibate women. However, it is possible for men to develop symptoms of skin irritation of the penis from a yeast infection after sexual intercourse with an infected partner.