A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection affecting the vulva or vagina that may be causing itching, discomfort and an abnormal discharge from the vagina. Yeast infections are very common: most women have at least once in their lives. Fortunately, there are effective treatments that are readily accessible.
What is a vaginal yeast infection?
As mentioned, a vaginal yeast infection affects the vulva or vagina. This type of infection may be caused by an overgrowth of yeast or Candida – a fungus that is found normally in the skin, mouth and vagina, as well as in the digestive tract. With a healthy and strong immune system, the balance of Candida is stabilized. However, this balance may break when the woman is taking antibiotics or if her immune system is weakened, which can cause this type of infection.
Who are at risk in the case of yeast infections?
Many women contract yeast infections, in fact most of them have been infected with it one or many times. Women with HIV positive tend to suffer more frequently, and there can be more complexity in treating this infection. Here are some conditions that may increase the risk of a yeast infection:
- Some medications such as antibiotics, and corticosteroids
- Taking oral contraceptives or hormone therapy
- High consumption of sugary or starchy foods
- Unprotected intercourse
- Contraceptive devices (intrauterine devices, vaginal sponges, diaphragms)
Vaginal yeast infections can cause:
- Itching or burning in vagina
- Swelling or redness of the vulva
- A thick white discharge from the vagina
- A burning sensation during urination
Vaginal Yeast Infection Prevention
To minimize the symptoms of yeast infection and avoid getting it, especially if you previously had such an infection, you can try the following:
- Reduce your intake of sugar.
- Avoid unnecessary antibiotic use, for colds or other viral infections.
- Wear loose, cotton underwear and loose-fitting pants or skirts.
- Avoid hot tubs and very hot baths.
- Immediately change out of wet clothes, such as swimsuits.
There are many effective drugs available, such as clotrimazole, butoconazole, miconazole, and terconazole. Some of these are available by prescription only, and others are available over-the-counter.
Over-the-counter treatments. These antifungal vaginal suppositories and creams are effective for many women.
Single-dose oral medication. Your doctor might prescribe you a one-time, single oral dose of the antifungal fluconazole, or, if you s have severe symptoms, two single doses three days apart.
Although antifungal creams are used to treat vaginal yeast infections, eating yogurt or applying it vaginally can also help. Probiotics such as lactobacillus are beneficial, and should be considered for women who suffer from more than three yeast infections per year. Probiotics suppress the growth of Candida and inhibit Candida’s ability to adhere to cell surfaces.
The lactobacillus species rhamnosus and reuteri can be useful to repopulate vaginal flora and to reduce yeast populations.
Probiotics should also be used after a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics also destroy the beneficial bacteria of the vagina, and place women at risk to develop yeast infections.
Boric acid has been shown to inhibit the growth of fungi and could be used intra-vaginally to treat yeast infections. A 2011 review article concluded that “boric acid is a safe, alternative, economic option for women” with recurrent yeast infections.
You can help prevent vaginal yeast infections if you follow the above advice, such as avoiding sweets, and some types of clothes. Enjoy probiotics and yogurts, and use them especially after you use antibiotics.