Vaginal yeast infections, also known as candidiasis, are a common female condition. Three out of four women will experience a yeast infection at one point in their lives and once you get a yeast infection, you are more likely to get another one.
Yeast infections are caused by the fungus candida (most commonly Candida albicans). This fungus is associated with intense itching, swelling, and irritation. A vaginal yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of yeast organisms that normally live in small numbers in the vagina. Its growth is kept in check by the naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina. However, these bacteria can’t work effectively if there is an imbalance in your system. This leads to an overgrowth of yeast, which causes the symptoms of vaginal yeast infections.
The symptoms that indicate you may have a yeast infection are:
• Vaginal itching that is often severe.
• Vaginal discharge that is usually white, thick, clumpy, and odourless.
• Red, irritated skin around the opening to the vagina (labia).
• Pain while urinating when urine touches irritated skin.
• Pain in the vagina during sexual intercourse.
Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are more likely to occur during the week before a menstrual period.
When are you most likely to get a yeast infection?
•Using antibiotics – Reduces the amount of naturally occurring bacteria that prevent the overgrowth of this fungus leading to a infection
•Having high oestrogen level such as in pregnancy, use of high-dose birth control pills and during the menstrual cycle.
•Having diabetes, especially if your blood sugars are not well controlled and tend to be high.
•A yeast infection can be sexually transmitted. However, yeast infection isn’t considered a sexually transmitted infection because it occurs in women who aren’t sexually active as well and the Candida fungus is naturally present in the vagina.
•A weak immune system i.e. an increased risk of infection due to the body’s inability to fight against it.
How is it treated?
Uncomplicated yeast infections are usually simple to treat (although there are chances of recurrence).
A one-time application or one-to-three-day regimen of an antifungal cream, ointment, tablet or suppository effectively clears a yeast infection in most cases. The medication of choice depends on your doctor. It is always advisable to consult a doctor before starting treatment because they will be able to assess the severity of the infection and treat you accordingly.
What can you do to prevent a yeast infection?
•Keep your vaginal area clean. Use mild, unscented soap and water. Rinse well.
•After using the toilet, wipe from front to back to avoid spreading yeast or bacteria from your anus to the vagina.
•Wear underwear that helps keep your genital area dry and doesn’t hold in warmth and moisture. One good choice is cotton underwear.
•Avoid tight-fitting clothing, such as panty hose, and tight-fitting jeans. These may increase body heat and moisture in your genital area.
•Change out of a wet swimsuit right away. Wearing a wet swimsuit for many hours may keep your genital area warm and moist.
•Change pads or tampons often.
•Don’t douche (i.e. washing or cleaning out the inside of the vagina with water or soap) or use deodorant tampons or feminine sprays, powders, or perfumes. These items can change the normal balance of organisms in your vagina.
Doctor by profession, ardent animal lover by choice; she finds writing to be therapeutic. She loves meeting new people, hopes to travel the world and has karaoking with Oprah on top of her bucket list. @kirtana_ponnuswamy