What is a vaginal yeast infection?

Many women experience vaginal yeast infections during their lifespan. Often resulting in uncomfortable symptoms like burning, itching, and a white discharge, this infection impacts the vagina and the area around it, the vulva.

What causes a yeast infection?

A yeast infection is caused by several different fungi that normally grow in the body. (Yeast is a kind of fungus.) A change in the chemical balance in the vagina allows the fungus to grow too rapidly and cause symptoms.

Yeast infections most often occur in a woman's vagina. Yeast infections can occur in other parts of the body and in men. Though uncomfortable, yeast infections are not serious and can be cured. It is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.

What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?

Common symptoms:

  • Intense vaginal and or vulvar itching
  • Thick, odorless discharge (might resemble cottage cheese)

Less common symptoms:

Why do yeast infections occur?

The fungus that causes yeast infections is a normal inhabitant of the vagina. Usually it exists in small numbers and causes no symptoms. At certain times, these normal fungi overgrow the healthy bacteria and symptoms of a yeast infection occur. Some factors that can contribute to the fungi growing more than they should are:

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy