Yeast infections are caused by the proliferation of a naturally occurring microorganism which occurs in small concentrations in the vagina. This overgrowth inflames the vagina and creates a discharge, odor, irritation, swelling and/or itching.
Normally growing lactobacillus bacteria in the body typically keep yeast fungi in check. If the natural balance of microorganisms is altered, the yeast may multiply and become the dominant organism in the vagina, which causes the symptoms of vaginal infections.
Most yeast infections are caused by a specific kind of yeast called Candida albicans and the condition is called Candidiasis. These yeast infections are easily treatable.
Also read: How to get rid of vaginal cysts naturally
What are vaginal yeast infections?
According to the Mayo Clinic, 3 out of 4 women will experience a yeast infection at one point in their lives. Once you get a yeast infection, you’re more likely to get another one.
Vaginal yeast infections can be spread by sexual contact, but in general, they aren’t considered a sexually transmitted infection. Treatment for yeast infections is relatively simple, depending on their severity.
If the yeast infection is reoccurring frequently or you are having problems getting rid of a yeast treatment with conventional treatment, then another species of Candida might be the culprit. Microscopy, culture, and sensitivity lab test can let your doctor know which type of Candida you have.
The imbalance that allows the overgrowth of yeast to happen can be due to:
- antibiotics (they lower the amount of lactobacillus, or good bacteria, in the vagina)
- uncontrolled diabetes
- weak immune system (for example due to HIV/AIDS, steroid usage, pregnancy, cancer chemotherapy or other drugs that serve to weaken the immune system)
- poor eating habits, including a lot of sugary foods
- hormonal imbalance near your menstrual cycle
- lack of sleep
- Tight or noncotton underwear
Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection
- large or small amounts of vaginal discharge, often whitish gray and thick (although there are also times the discharge can be watery)
- pain during sex
Yeast infections are simple to diagnose.
Doctors will normally begin by getting information about your medical history. This will include whether or not you have had prior yeast infections.
Normally, doctors will also ask if you have ever had a sexually transmitted infection.
The next step is a pelvic exam. Your doctor will examine your vagina and the surrounding area to see if there are external signs of infection. They will also examine your vaginal walls and cervix.
Depending on what your doctor discovers, they will take a vaginal sample to send to the lab for confirmation.
Tests are usually ordered only for women that have yeast infections on a regular basis or for infections that won’t go away.
Treatment of vaginal yeast infections
Each yeast infection is different, so your doctor will suggest a treatment that’s best for you. Treatments are generally determined based on an infection’s severity.
For simple yeast infections, your doctor will usually prescribe the following treatment(s):
- A one- to a three-day regimen of an antifungal cream, ointment, tablet, or suppository. Common antifungal medications arebutoconazole (Gynazole), miconazole (Lotrimin), Monistat, and terconazole (Terazol). These medications can be in prescription or over-the-counter form.
- A single dose of oral medication, such as fluconazole (Diflucan).
Women with simple yeast infections should follow up with their doctor to make sure the medicine worked. A follow-up will also be necessary if your symptoms return within two months.
Certain types of Candida will not respond to normal treatment and will require a more aggressive course of action.
If you meet one of the following criteria, your doctor will more than likely treat your yeast infection as if it were a severe or complicated case.
- You have severe redness, swelling, and itching that leads to sores or tears in your vaginal tissue.
- You have had more than four yeast infections in a year.
- Your infection is caused by Candida other than albicans.
- You are pregnant.
- You have uncontrolled diabetes or a weak immune system from medication or from being HIV-positive.
Possible treatments for severe or complicated yeast infections include:
- 14-day cream, ointment, tablet, or suppository vaginal treatment
- two or three doses of fluconazole (Diflucan)
- long-term prescription of fluconazole (Diflucan) that is taken once a week for six weeks, or long-term use of a topical antifungal medication
- treatment of your sexual partner or use of condoms when having sex
Natural and alternative solutions
Vaginal yeast infections can be treated with natural remedies if you would like to avoid taking prescription medication. These are some popular natural remedies:
- tea tree oil cream
- garlic or boric acid vaginal suppositories
- plain yogurt taken orally or inserted into the vagina
How to prevent vaginal yeast infections
In many cases, you may know exactly what led to your yeast infection. For example, some women experience these infections every time they take antibiotics. By recognizing your own risk factors, you can prevent future infections.
In many cases, you may know exactly what led to your yeast infection. For example, some women experience these infections every time they take antibiotics.
By recognizing your own risk factors, you can prevent future infections.
Most prevention methods are targeted at avoiding bacteria growth near the vagina:
- avoid wearing tight pants, pantyhose, tights, or leggings
- avoid using feminine deodorant or deodorant tampons or pads
- don’t sit around in wet clothing, especially bathing suits
- eat a well-balanced diet
- eat yogurt or take supplements with lactobacillus
- wear natural fibers such as cotton, linen, or silk
- avoid sitting in hot tubs or taking frequent hot tub baths
- wash underwear in hot water.
Also do all you can to avoid douching and don’t forget to replace old feminine products frequently as that also goes a long way in preventing vagina yeast infection 😉