Yeast infections can happen to anyone at seemingly anytime. They are uncomfortable, itchy and irritating, but are easily treatable.
Yeast infections are fungal infections that can occur in both men and women in several different places on the body. The most common form of yeast infection is the vaginal yeast infection (vulvovaginal candidiasis). 75% of women will experience a yeast infection in their lifetime, while up to 40%-45% of women will have recurring infections. A vaginal yeast infection occurs when healthy yeast that normally lives in your vagina grows out of control. This overgrowth of yeast can be triggered by several different factors.
There are many different treatment options for yeast infections including prescription pills and creams, as well as over-the-counter options. Recurrent yeast infections may call for a longer treatment course and maintenance options.
Common Yeast Infection Symptoms
The main symptoms of a yeast infection are itchiness and irritation; however you may experience any or all of the following:
- A thick, white, clumpy discharge, similar to cottage cheese, that often has little to no odor.
- Redness and swelling of the vagina and the vulva (the outer part of the female genitals)
- Pain or burning during urination
- Uncomfortable or painful sexual intercourse
Causes of Yeast Infections
The vagina is home to a natural balance of yeast and bacteria. If the chemistry of the vagina becomes imbalanced, the normal yeast that live in the vagina can grow too much and lead to an infection. Here are some things that can lead to an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina:
- Hormonal changes can change the balance of healthy yeast in the vagina. Pregnancy, breast-feeding, menopause, and birth control pills are all hormonal factors that can change the vaginal environment.
- Antibiotics can kill off many of the bacteria that live in your vagina, causing an imbalance in the natural vaginal flora. While antibiotics kill off whatever bad bacteria is causing the primary infection, it also kills off the good bacteria that keeps the vaginal flora healthy, leading to an overgrowth of yeast.
- A weakened or impaired immune system.
- Your natural reaction to another individual’s genital chemistry can alter the natural vaginal flora enough to cause an infection (though a yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted infection).
- Diabetes that is not well-controlled, leading to an increase in sugar in the mucus membranes (moist linings) of your vagina, creating the perfect conditions for the overgrowth of yeast.
Yeast Infection Prevention
There are many factors that increase the risk of developing a yeast infection. To reduce this risk, wear loose fitting clothing made of breathable materials like cotton. Try to avoid:
- Tight fitting jeans, leggings and pantyhose
- Douching, which can remove normal bacteria that helps to keep the vaginal flora balanced
- Scented feminine hygiene products including fragranced bath salts, bubbles and soaks, pads and tampons
- Unnecessary antibiotic use
- Remaining in wet clothing, such as swimwear and workout attire, for prolonged periods of time Keeping the vaginal area dry and cool helps to keep the vaginal flora balanced.
When To See A Doctor about a Yeast Infection
Make an appointment to see a doctor if:
- You’ve developed symptoms and have never experienced a yeast infection previously
- You have concerning symptoms but are unsure whether or not you have a yeast infection
- Over-the-counter antifungal creams or suppositories do not relieve your symptoms
How Advanced Gynecology Can Help: Treatment Options for Yeast Infection
If you’ve been suffering with itchiness or unusual discharge, Advanced Gynecology is here for you. Our board-certified team of women’s health experts are ready to help you with diagnostic care and a range of options from testing to maintenance. We will counsel you about the best options for you and your health. If you think you have a yeast infection, see your doctor before treating yourself. The symptoms of a yeast infection can be similar to more serious conditions, including sexually transmitted infections and bacterial vaginosis.