Vaginal yeast infections (also known as vaginal candidiasis) are caused by a fungus called candida albicans.
This fungus lives in warm, moist parts of the body, such as the mouth and around the genitals.
When there is an overgrowth of this fungus, an infection occurs.
An estimated 75% of people with vaginas will experience a vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime.
Approximately 1.4 million outpatient visits for vaginal candidiasis occur annually in the U.S. So if you are experiencing an itch or burn down there, you shouldn’t feel any shame.
In this article, I’ll explore the link between yeast infections and antibiotics, the symptoms of a yeast infection, and antibiotics that can cause these infections.
I’ll also talk about how you can prevent these infections, and who is at higher risk for contracting one.
Finally, I’ll tell you when you should see a doctor or other healthcare provider about your symptoms.
The Link Between Yeast Infections and Antibiotics
Antibiotics that are prescribed to kill bacteria and fight infection can also kill healthy bacteria in the process.
This creates an imbalance in your body, which can sometimes make you more susceptible to an overgrowth of candida albicans fungus.
The predominant group of bacteria that naturally occurs in a healthy vagina is Lactobacillus.
These bacteria help protect against infection- and disease-causing agents by producing antimicrobial substances.
These bacteria can be killed—or have their growth stalled—when certain antibiotics are taken.
When your body does not have enough Lactobacillus, your vagina becomes less acidic.
This creates a more favorable environment for yeast to grow.
Symptoms of a Yeast Infection
If you think you are suffering from a vaginal yeast infection, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Vaginal itching, irritation, or soreness
- Redness, itching, or swelling of the vulva
- Thick, white, cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pain or discomfort when urinating
Mild yeast infections will go away on their own after a few days.
But in most cases, they will get progressively worse if left untreated.
In severe cases, you may experience redness, intense swelling, and cracks in the wall of the vagina.
Speak with your healthcare provider to find the best treatment option for you.
Which Antibiotics Cause Yeast Infections?
Not all antibiotics will cause yeast infections, but certain medications can leave you more susceptible to vaginal candidiasis.
Carbapenems, such as meropenem and ertapenem, are broad-spectrum antibiotics used to treat serious bacterial infections.
These medicines are often administered via IV.
You may be prescribed carbapenems if you have urinary infections that are resistant to other antibiotics, bacterial meningitis, intra-abdominal infection, antibiotic-resistant pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, or febrile neutropenia.
They can also be prescribed for infections that are spread by ticks.
Some common brand names for tetracyclines include:
- Doxycycline (Adoxa)
- Demeclocycline (Declomycin)
- Minocycline (Minocin)
- Omadacycline (Nuzyra)
- Tetracycline (Sumycin)
- Eravacycline (Xerava)
Some common quinolones include:
- Moxifloxacin (Avelox)
- Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
- Levofloxacin (Levaquin)
How to Prevent a Yeast Infection from Antibiotics
This is an oral prescription medication you can take to treat and prevent fungal infections.
It is not advised for pregnant women.
An over-the-counter antifungal cream or suppository can help ward off yeast infections caused by antibiotics.
For best results, follow the directions on the box, and begin using your antifungal treatment simultaneously with the beginning of your antibiotic treatment.
Probiotics are living microbes sometimes called “good bacteria.”
They are available through foods with live cultures, such as yogurt, and in supplements.
Recent research suggests that taking probiotics can promote vaginal health.
Wearing cotton underwear can help reduce your chances of getting a yeast infection.
Yeast thrives in moist environments.
Cotton absorbs moisture, making the environment less hospitable for the fungus.
Who is at Higher Risk of Developing a Yeast Infection?
Any woman at any age can get a yeast infection and most will experience at least one in their lifetime, but it is more than likely to occur in women after puberty and before menopause.
Another risk factor is having higher estrogen levels.
You may have higher estrogen levels if you are pregnant, taking high-dose estrogen birth control pills, or undergoing estrogen hormone therapy.
Diabetes or a weakened immune system can also put you at an increased risk for yeast infections.
When to See a Doctor or Healthcare Professional
If you are struggling with symptoms of itchiness, irritation, redness, burning, and cracks in the wall of your vagina, you should see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
If you develop a yeast infection while using an OTC antifungal vaginal cream or suppository in conjunction with your antibiotics, contact a healthcare provider.
They will be able to examine you and determine the best medication for you.
They may take a small sample of vaginal discharge to test under a microscope to form their diagnosis.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Does probiotics work for bacterial vaginosis and vulvovaginal candidiasis. (2021).
Warding Off Recurrent Yeast and Bacterial Vaginal Infections: Lactoferrin and Lactobacilli. (2020).
The Role of Fatty Acid Metabolites in Vaginal Health and Disease: Application to Candidiasis. (2021).
Quinolones and the Clinical Laboratory. (2019).
Carbapenem antibiotics for serious infections. (2012).
Vaginal Candidiasis. (2021).
Study of Antibiotic-induced Vaginal Yeast Infections in Healthy Women. (2019).