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A yeast infection is an infection that occurs when there is too much yeast present in the vagina (although men can also get yeast infections; they can also develop in the throat or mouth). The vagina naturally contains many bacteria as well as a small amount of yeast. However, when those bacteria become unbalanced, an overgrowth of yeast can occur. Symptoms of a yeast infection include itching and soreness in the vaginal area, and possibly a burning sensation during urination. Thick, white vaginal discharge resembling cottage cheese may also be present.
Yeast infections are quite common and in most cases they are not serious.
Yeast infections can occur as a result of the use of antibiotics and birth control pills, stress, illness, pregnancy, poor eating habits, and even menstruation. The best way to diagnose a yeast infection is to visit the doctor although some women have them often enough that they are able to recognize the signs themselves. There are some over-the-counter creams or pills that can be used to treat a yeast infection. However, those are not recommended for those who have never had a yeast infection before, are pregnant, or have had more than four yeast infections in a year; these cases require a doctor.
Twelve to 15 percent of men get an itchy rash on their penis if they have unprotected sex with a woman who has a yeast infection, suggesting that some level of infection can be passed to a male partner. Studies about the likelihood of infection between lesbian partners is inconclusive, but becoming infected this way appears to be a possibility.