When it comes to the infections that affect our dear vagina, yeast infection is the second most common. (1)
Also known as vaginal thrush, yeast infection is a fungal infection caused mainly by Candida Albicans. It affects 75 percent of all women at some point in their lifetime, and 40-45 percent have two or more episodes. (2)

Vaginal Yeast Infection Symptoms

The most common symptom is itching and discomfort in the vagina and vulva.
You may also experience :

  •  A thick, white, odor-free vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese. Sometimes the discharge may also be watery.
  • Redness and swelling of the vagina and the vulva
  • Pain or burning when you pee
  • Pain during sex (dyspareunia)

The infection may manifest itself by only a few of these symptoms, and they can vary from mild to severe. The longer the infection is left untreated, the more severe your symptoms may become.

Related: Overview Of Bacterial Vaginosis

 What Causes a Vaginal Yeast Infection?

An overgrowth of the fungus Candida causes vaginal yeast infections. The vagina naturally contains a balanced mix of Candida and a particular type of bacteria called Lactobacillus. The Lactobacillus, commonly known as good bacteria, is a beneficial bacteria for our body and does not cause any infection. It creates an environment that keeps the amount of yeast under control. Under certain circumstances, the Lactobacillus does not work correctly. It leads to an overgrowth of yeast. The penetration of these yeasts into deeper vaginal cell layers causes the symptoms of vaginal yeast infection.

Overgrowth of the yeast can result from:

  •  The use of antibiotics which decreases the amount of Lactobacillus (good bacteria) in the vagina.
  •  High estrogen levels: high estrogen levels in the body create an increase of sugar in the vaginal secretions, which can feed the yeast and make them overgrow. It explains why yeast infections are frequent when the estrogen is elevated, such as pregnancy, taking high-estrogen birth control pills, using estrogen hormone therapy, or having estrogen dominance. Yeast infections also tend to show up right before the periods because of the hormonal changes that come with the menstrual cycle.
  •  Uncontrolled diabetes: when your diabetes is not well controlled, your blood glucose levels can be very high. The body may excrete extra sugar in the urine and vaginal secretions. It can contribute to yeast growth in the vaginal area.
  •  A weakened immune system: women with suppressed immune systems are more likely to get yeast infections. These include women living with HIV infection, cancer, or those who are on chemotherapy or corticosteroid therapy.
  •  Douches and Vaginal Sprays: douches and vaginal sprays can wash away the good bacteria and change the acidity level in your vagina. That encourages the growth of yeast.
  •  Vaginal yeast infections also spread through sex. A yeast infection is not seen as a sexually transmitted disease (STD) because you can get a yeast infection from your sexual partner. Still, women who aren’t sexually active can also get them.

Related: What Causes Vaginal Dryness

 How Is Vaginal Yeast Infection Diagnosed?

Your doctor will review your medical history. This includes information about past vaginal infections. Your doctor may also ask if you’ve ever had an STD. After that, your doctor will perform a pelvic exam to look for swelling or discharge. The next step may be to use a cotton swab to take a sample of your vaginal discharge and send it for testing. A lab technician will inspect the sample to see whether there is an overgrowth of the fungus Candida that causes a yeast infection.

 Vaginal Yeast Infection Treatment

If you are worried you have a yeast infection, it is essential to see your doctor before treating yourself because it’s easy to confuse the symptoms of a yeast infection with more severe conditions, including STDs and other vaginal infections. An accurate diagnosis is essential so you can get the best treatment.

Once you are sure that you have a yeast infection, you can go to a drug store to buy an antifungal medicine over the counter (without a prescription). For most infections, the treatment is miconazole or terconazole, available in creams, ointments, and suppositories. You apply or insert them inside the vagina for up to seven days. You may need a single dose of fluconazole taken by mouth.

When treated correctly, the infection can relieve symptoms within a few days; on the other hand, it may take up to 2 weeks for severe cases. If your yeast infection doesn’t get better after treatment or keeps coming back after getting better, your doctor may prescribe you a regular dose of antifungal medicine for up to six months.

It is crucial to know that the medicines used to treat the yeast infection can weaken condoms and diaphragms, making it easier for you to get pregnant or contract sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You should avoid having sex until you have entirely recovered from the infection.

Related: 7 Steps To Improve Your Vaginal Health

  Vaginal Yeast Infection Prevention

It may be impossible to prevent yeast infections in some women, but here are a few tips to help you reduce your risk of vaginal yeast infections:

  •  Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear.
  •  Ensure your genital area is as dry as possible; yeast develops more quickly in a warm and moist environment.
  •  Avoid staying in wet clothes, such as swimsuits and workout gear, for long periods.
  •  Don’t douche (washing out the vagina with water or a mixture)
  •  Avoid tight-fitting pantyhose, jeans, yoga pants, etc.
  •  Only use antibiotics when necessary.
  •  Avoid scented feminine products, including bubble baths, soaps, sprays, pads, and tampons.
  •  Manage your diabetes if you have it. If even you do not have diabetes limit the amount of sugar and processed foods you consume
  • Avoid hot tubs and extra hot baths.
  • After using the bathroom, always wipe yourself from front to back to avoid spreading yeast from your anus to your vagina.
  • When on your period, change your pads, panty liners, cups, and tampon often.
  • Condoms and dental dams may also help prevent getting or passing yeast infections through vaginal, oral, or anal sex.

Related: 8 Common Menstrual Hygiene Mistakes Women Make

References

1-https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/genital/index.html
2-https://hospitals.jefferson.edu/diseases-and-conditions/yeast-infection.html

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About the Author

Hermione M.

My name is Hermione. I am the founder of WomenH and I write about women's health, wellness, mental health, and personal growth. I created this platform to inspire women to take care of themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally to become their best selves. Thank you for stopping by.

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