Yeast infections are many things—aggravating, itchy, kinda gross—but one thing they shouldn’t be is mysterious. These incredibly common infections are caused by a fungus that is naturally present in your body. When that fungus level rises, which can happen due to increased estrogen levels, antibiotics, or pregnancy, it can lead to an infection, says Salena Zanotti, M.D., ob-gyn at the Cleveland Clinic.
“Symptoms of a yeast infection can be a white discharge, sometimes cottage cheese-like, vulvo-vaginal itching, and/or burning,” says Zanotti. Other symptoms can include a burning when you pee or pain during sex, all of which should point you straight to a doc to get checked out.
Three out of four women get a yeast infection in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But still, there’s a lot of confusion about this pesky problem. Monistat, the popular over-the-counter remedy for yeast infections, commissioned a study on some of the myths surrounding yeast infections, asking 1,000 women between the ages of 16 and 24 what they know (or think they know) about yeast infections.
Turns out a lot of them (more than half) have no idea what to do when they feel like they have a yeast infection because they feel stigmatized by them. Of those surveyed who experienced yeast infections, 37 percent said it made them feel like they did something wrong, 42 percent reported feeling self-conscious; and 55 percent said they were afraid of being negatively judged by others and that it made them feel dirty. That’s a lot of power for a little fungus!
Let us set the record straight: