A healthy vagina has an acidic pH and a good balance of bacteria and yeast cells. But an imbalance of bacteria and yeast cells can lead to a vaginal yeast infection.
Also known as candidiasis or vaginal thrush, vaginal yeast infections are relatively common, and it’s estimated that they affect 3 out of 4 women at some point in their lifetime.
If you suspect you have a vaginal yeast infection, here’s our detailed guide on how to perform an at-home yeast infection test to determine whether you have an infection.
Symptoms of a Vaginal Yeast Infection
While intense itchiness and an uncomfortable burning sensation are telltale signs of a vaginal yeast infection, some other symptoms aren’t as obvious. Here are some other common signs of vaginal thrush:
Pain during sex
Pain during urination
Thick, whitish-yellow vaginal discharge
Vaginal swelling, redness, or soreness
If you experience any of these symptoms, performing a vaginal pH test (sometimes called a candida test) can allow you to determine whether you have a yeast infection or any other type of vaginal infection, such as Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) or Trichomoniasis (Trich).
Clinical research shows that about half of self-diagnoses of vaginal infections are incorrect [3-4]. Therefore, it's essential to distinguish between these various forms of vaginitis so that you can select an effective treatment plan tailored to your specific condition.
Other Vaginal Infections
Yeast infections are not the only conditions that can cause itching, discomfort, and excessive vaginal discharge. Bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis have similar symptoms.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) occurs when there is an imbalance of microorganisms in the vagina. Too many anaerobes or “bad” bacteria cause an infection. BV causes vaginal discharge with a distinct, fishy odor. It may be off-white, gray, or even greenish, and the amount of discharge may increase after sexual intercourse. BV may also lead to vaginal irritation, itching, or soreness and pain with urination .
Trichomoniasis is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) caused by a one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Trichomoniasis causes excessive vaginal discharge that may be thin and frothy and ranges in color from yellow to greenish. The discharge often has a foul, moldy odor. You may also notice redness, burning, and itching around the vagina and vulva, pain during urination or sex, and lower-abdominal pain .
How To Perform an At-home Vaginal pH Test
Follow these steps to perform an at home vaginal pH test:
Wash your hands thoroughly and dry them before taking the test.
Open the test kit and carefully remove the vaginal pH test strip and swab from their packaging. Place both on a flat, clean, dry surface, such as your bathroom countertop. Avoid touching the test strip’s test area or the swab tip, as doing so could affect the results.
For easy sample collection, stand and place one foot on a raised surface, such as a toilet seat or another steady surface.
Pick up the swab and hold one of its ends with one hand. With your other hand, spread apart the folds of skin around your vaginal opening (your labia).
Gently insert the swab about five centimeters (about two inches) into your vagina and place it against your vaginal wall. Slowly rotate the swab and hold it against your vaginal wall for about five seconds to ensure it becomes moist.
Slowly remove the swab from your vagina. To keep the sample clean, ensure the swab’s tip doesn’t touch anything else before proceeding with the next step.
Smear the swab on the pH test strip’s test area several times until the color on the test area gradually starts changing.
Compare the color on the test area to the color chart on the test kit. For best results, compare the colors after 30 seconds.
Record your results.
How To Interpret the Vaginal pH Test Results
The color on your vaginal pH test strip indicates your vaginal pH, and the color chart on the yeast infection test kit has a pH scale ranging from 3.8 to 7. Ideally, your vaginal pH should range between 3.8 to 4.5, which is moderately acidic. Understanding which health conditions alter vaginal pH can help you understand what is causing symptoms.
Yeast infections do not cause a change in vaginal pH. If you are experiencing symptoms such as excessive discharge and itching or discomfort but aren’t sure of the cause, you can use a vaginal pH test as an (over-the-counter) OTC yeast infection test. If your vaginal pH levels are in the normal range, you can be reasonably assured that you have a yeast infection.
Yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter medications.
Bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis both lead to an increase in vaginal pH. If testing shows a pH greater than 4.5, you may have one of those conditions. A high vaginal pH and symptoms, including fishy-smelling discharge, can mean you have BV. A vaginal higher than 4.7, along with frothy, moldy-smelling discharge, may be caused by trichomoniasis .
If you suspect you have trichomoniasis or bacterial vaginosis, talk to your doctor. You will need prescription antibiotics to treat those infections.
Rebekah has been writing about culture, health, and politics since 2010. She has a masters degree in Arts Policy and Administration from The Ohio State University. Her work has been seen at WebMD, The Candidly, MedicineNet, YourTango, Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, Salon, Role Reboot, The Good Men Project, SheSaid, Huffington Post, and Mamamia. She is a former cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union. Rebekah lives in Maryland with her husband, two kids, and a dog who sheds a lot.
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