What is a Vaginal Yeast Infection?
Healthy vaginas contain bacteria and yeast cells. Sometimes, an overgrowth leads to infection. While very common, a vaginal yeast infection can cause extreme irritation and discomfort.
Vaginal yeast infections or candidiasis are very common. It is mostly caused by a type of fungus called Candida albicans. Candida is found on the skin and other parts of the body, including the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina.
The vagina’s natural chemistry is a balance of bacteria and yeast. Estrogen helps this good bacteria, called lactobacilli to grow. It also kills harmful organisms in the vagina, but an imbalance caused by overgrowth often leads to infection.
According to a a study, 80.40% of recorded fungal infections in the Philippines in 2016 was attributed to candidiasis. Furthermore, it was the leading cause of consultation at the Dermatology Out-Patient Section of the Department of Health-Research Institute of Tropical Medicine.
Signs and Symptoms
Extreme itchiness and discomfort in and around the vagina are the main symptoms of a yeast infection. These may also be a warning sign of infection or illness:
- Burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina and vulva
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Burning sensation during urination
Thick, whitish-gray vaginal discharge is another warning sign of infection or illness. It has been described to have a cottage-cheese-like consistency, but odorless.
If left untreated, symptoms can escalate from mild to severe, leading to more serious health issues. Because these symptoms are similar to that of other severe conditions, including bacterial vaginosis, do not diagnose yourself. See your doctor immediately for more concrete treatment.
Apart from an overgrowth of bad bacteria, there are many reasons for a vaginal yeast infection. These include:
An imbalance in the vagina’s environment can occur during pregnancy, menopause, and the menstrual cycle.
Women in menopausal transition are likely to experience vaginal itching. The decline in estrogen levels results in thinner and drier vaginal walls, leading to itchiness.
Cortisone and other drugs can eliminate some of the vagina’s good bacteria.
The mucous membranes of your vagina can create more room for yeast to grow when there is an increase in sugar in your body. Even if there is no diagnosis, improving eating habits and limiting sugar intake can help.
Weak immune system
Immunodeficiency disorders make it harder for the body to fight off infection
Douches and vaginal products
Chemical irritants found in some detergents, soaps, feminine hygiene products, vaginal sprays, and creams can cause itchiness.
Stress has a negative effect on the immune system which increases the likelihood of having yeast infection.
Watch out for any warning sign of infection or illness. Vaginal yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted disease (STDs).
However, sexual contact can sometimes lead to an infection. This is because your body might react poorly to another person’s genital chemistry. You may be at risk if you have multiple partners or change partners often.
First, your doctor would want to know about your medical history. This includes whether you have had a yeast infection before, and even STDs.
Infections caused by bacteria and sexually transmitted infections often share similar symptoms. It is better to consult a doctor because each requires different treatment.
A pelvic exam is usually the next step. Your doctor will need to examine the surrounding area for external signs of infection like swelling and redness.
Depending on the severity of your case, a sample of your vaginal discharge will be taken for examination. Lab tests will determine if there is indeed an overgrowth of Candida. These tests are only necessary if the infection occurs regularly and will not go away.
An estimated 75% of women will be affected at some point in life. While fairly common, yeast infections are usually treated within days. Severe cases, however, may take up to two weeks.
Over-the-counter Anti-fungal Medication
Vaginal yeast infections are easy to treat with symptoms eliminated in a few days. After experiencing any warning sign of infection or illness, you can buy anti-fungal medicines at any drugstore, over the counter (OTC).
These come in the form of medicated creams, ointments, and vaginal suppository for yeast infection.
Apply OTC creams around your vulva to minimize itching that can lead to cuts and scrapes, as these will allow the spread of more germs.
Again, see your doctor first to avoid misdiagnosis. Some bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics.
For mild cases, the doctor might prescribe a one to three day-regimen of the listed medications above or other prescription medication. Make sure to finish them all even after your symptoms go away.
In severe and complicated cases, you may have to take long-term medication that lasts for weeks and in larger doses.
Refraining from Sexual Intercourse
If you are sexually active, you may want to know if your partner has or has had a yeast infection.
During treatment, refrain from any sexual contact, vaginal or oral. Friction from sex can cause more irritation. Moreover, oils contained in some medicines might cause barriers like condoms to break.
Vaginal yeast infection is one of the most common infections among women.
3 out of 4 women are likely to experience it at some point. And some might experience recurring infections.
Nevertheless, yeast infections are easily managed and treated. But, there are ways on how you can minimize your risk level:
- Avoid wearing tight clothing because it increases heat and moisture level in your genital area
- Wear cotton underwear instead
- Do not wear wet suits or workout clothes for long periods of time
- During your period, change pads, tampons, and panty liners as often as possible
- After bathing or using the toilet, always wipe from front to back. The key is to always keep your genitals dry.
- Refrain from douching. Douching kills the healthy bacteria necessary to prevent harmful organisms to multiply.
- Avoid using scented genital products including vaginal sprays, toilet paper, and feminine wash
The presence of Candida yeast in your vagina is normal. It is the overgrowth that causes health complications.
Despite its prevalence, watching out for any warning sign of infection or illness, and possible treatment of yeast infection can help minimize the risks.
The availability of over-the-counter medications can eliminate symptoms in just a matter of days.
It is important to seek medical help first before treating yourself. Some antibiotics might not work, while others are meant for a different infection or disease.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.