Yeast Infections – What You Need to Know
A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection of the vagina and tissues of the vulva. It can occur when the normal healthy balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina get out of balance. The hormone estrogen helps bacteria called lactobacilli to grow. These bacteria kill harmful organisms in the vagina and keep you healthy. However when something happens to tip that balance, a fungus called candida can grow out of control and cause a yeast infection.
Yeast infections can be itchy and uncomfortable, and no one really likes to talk about them, but these infections are very common in women. It’s estimated that 75% of women will have at least one yeast infection in her lifetime.
What Causes a Yeast Infection?
There are many factors that could cause a yeast infection, including:
- Antibiotics: These drugs can kill off many of the good bacteria that live in your vagina.
- Hormones: Changes during pregnancy, breast-feeding or menopause (or taking birth control pills can change the balance in your vagina).
- Diabetes: If your diabetes is not well-controlled, the increase in sugar in the mucus membranes (moist linings) of your vagina can create a place for yeast to grow.
- Douches and vaginal sprays: The use of these products can change the balance in your vagina.
- A weakened immune system: If you have an immune system disorder, the yeast may also grow uncontrolled.
- Sex: Though a yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted infection, it can be passed from person to person through sexual contact.
What Are the Symptoms of a Yeast Infection?
Itchiness and discomfort are the most common symptoms of a yeast infection. Other symptoms can include:
- Pain or burning during urination
- Pain during sex
- Redness, swelling, or burning of the vagina and/or vulva
- A thick, white, odorless discharge, similar to cottage cheese.
These symptoms can be similar to symptoms of something more serious, so it’s important to see you doctor and get the proper diagnosis and treatment.
What Treatments are Available for Yeast Infections?
A yeast infection may be diagnosed by taking a sample of the discharge to be examined under a microscope.
Once diagnosed, the most common way your doctor will treat a yeast infection is by prescribing an antifungal medicine, or by recommending an over-the-counter antifungal cream, ointment, or suppository.
Depending on the severity of the infection, it can take anywhere from a few days to 1-2 weeks to clear up, and sometimes there can be some resistance to certain medications used.
It’s important for you to know that some yeast infection medications weaken condoms or diaphragms. That makes it easier for you to get pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted disease. Be sure to read instructions and warnings before using.
Can Yeast Infections be Prevented?
It may not be possible for all women to prevent yeast infections, but here’s what you can do to lower your odds.
- Wear breathable underwear. Cotton is your best choice. It doesn’t hold onto heat or moisture. It will help keep you dry.
- Keep things loose. Make sure your jeans, skirts, underwear, yoga pants, tights, pantyhose, etc., aren’t too snug. They can boost your body temperature and increase the amount of moisture around your private parts. That raises your chances for a yeast infection.
- Don’t douche. “Feminine hygiene products” like douches can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your vagina by removing some of the good bacteria that’s supposed to be there to fight off infections.
- Skip the scent in feminine products. This includes bubble baths, soaps, sprays, tampons, and pads.
- Avoid hot tubs and extra hot baths. Hot and damp are never your friends.
- Change out of wet clothes. Don’t sit in a wet bathing suit after you go swimming or damp workout gear after the gym. Change into dry clothes right away.
- In the bathroom, always wipe from front to back.
- When on your period, change your tampons, pads, and panty liners often.
- Manage your diabetes. If you have it, be sure to keep an eye on your blood sugar levels and keep them under control.
- Use antibiotics only when you must. You don’t need them for conditions like a cold, because they don’t do anything against a virus. If you don’t have to, don’t take them.
Probiotic-rich foods have been shown to promote a good pH balance within the vagina. The good bacteria lactobacillus improves overall vaginal health and can help prevent yeast infections.
The best probiotic-rich foods to try for the prevention of a yeast infection are:
- Greek Yogurt
While you have probably heard about the benefits of cranberry juice in the treatment of yeast infections, it’s also packed with unhealthy amounts of sugar.
As with any issues you may be experiencing, it’s important to see your health care provider for the right diagnosis and treatment. Our doctors are here to help. Call us at 770-720-7733 or request an appointment online.