Yeast Infections In Women: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Yeast Infections are one of the most common infections to occur in women. This is because all healthy vaginas have some amount of yeast in them. This yeast is known as candida. When it multiplies too much, it turns into a yeast infection. Though uncomfortable and itchy, these infections are not a cause for alarm. They can be treated easily at home.

Yeast Infection

What is a Yeast Infection?

A yeast infection is also known as vaginal candidiasis. It occurs due to an imbalance between yeast and healthy bacteria in the vagina. 75% of women throughout the world develop a yeast infection at least once in their lives, while 40-45% of women develop it more than once.

Why does a Yeast Infection Occur?

Many factors can contribute to the growth of yeast in the vagina. Some of these include:

  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy leads to an imbalance in hormones, which can contribute towards the uncontrolled growth of yeast.
  • Sex: Yeast infections are not STDs. However, sex, particularly sporadic or rough sex, can contribute to the growth of candida in the vagina. Yeast infections can also occur as a natural reaction to your partner’s genital chemistry. Sometimes, reactions to certain contraceptives used during sex (such as spermicides) can also lead to this infection.
  • Diabetes: Diabetic women must control their sugar levels for many reasons. One of them is that the uncontrolled sugar can help candida grow along the mucus linings of the vagina.
  • Antibiotics: Certain antibiotics can put patients at a risk of developing yeast infection. This is because they may kill the healthy bacteria in the vagina.
  • Vaginal cleansers and douches: Vaginal cleansers can disrupt the natural pH balance of the vagina and contribute to the growth of yeast. Douches can also change this balance.
  • Menopause: Menopause causes hormonal changes that can lead to the growth of yeast.
  • Compromised Immune system: Patients with a compromised immune system, such as patients who suffer from HIV/AIDS, are more prone to developing yeast infections.

With these causes in mind, patients need to understand that their risk factors for yeast infections increase if they are taking antibiotics, have a compromised immune system, diabetes or high oestrogen levels.

What are the Symptoms of a Yeast Infection?

Yeast infections come with easily-identifiable symptoms such as:

  • Itching or a sense of irritation in the vagina or vulva
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Burning sensation during sex
  • Vaginal pain and sores
  • Watery vaginal discharge
  • Thick vaginal discharge that is odourless and resembles cottage cheese
  • Redness or swelling of the vulva

You should see a doctor if you are suffering from a yeast infection for the first time in your life. You should also see a doctor if you develop 3-4 yeast infections a year, the OTC medicines are not treating your symptoms, or if you develop new symptoms in addition to the yeast infection.

How to Prevent a Yeast Infection?

In order to prevent yeast infections from occurring, you should avoid the following:

  • Wearing extremely tight pantyhose
  • Using feminine hygiene products that are scented (this includes pads and tampons)
  • Douching after sex as it removes healthy bacteria from the vagina, making patients more prone to yeast infections
  • Bathing in a very hot tub
  • Taking antibiotics unnecessarily

How is a Yeast Infection Diagnosed?

Yeast infections do not require complicated diagnostic tests. Doctors generally start by asking about your medical history in order to rule out any other conditions. This is followed by two simple tests:

Pelvic Exam:

During a pelvic exam, the doctor will begin by examining the outer areas of the vagina, such as the vulva, to check for any signs of infections. Then, the doctor will use a speculum, an instrument that is used to hold the vagina open so that the doctor can look inside.

Vaginal Secretions Test:

The doctor may collect some vaginal secretions to confirm the diagnosis. This is generally done to determine exactly which fungus is causing the yeast infection.

How is a Yeast Infection Treated?

Yeast infections are generally treated with OTC medications. The type of treatment falls into two distinct categories:

Short Course Vaginal Therapy:

In this type of treatment, the doctor prescribes a fungal medicine that the patient must take for at least 3-7 days in order to clear the infection up. These medications can be taken in different forms such as creams, ointments, suppositories, and tablets.

Single Dose Oral Medication:

In this type of treatment, the doctor prescribes a single antibiotic tablet that is consumed orally. If the yeast infection is very severe, two single dose tablets can be taken over the course of three days. This type of treatment is not considered safe for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

If you have a yeast infection, speak to your doctor about the treatment type that suits you the most. Additionally, you must abstain from sex until the infection clears up. This is because friction can irritate the skin, and this may cause the infection to heal more slowly. You must also prevent yourself from scratching as cuts in the skin may cause the infection to spread even more.

Are There Any Home Remedies for Yeast Infection?

When it comes to any medical condition, it is always best to turn to your doctor for advice. Though there are certain home remedies for yeast infections, they work sporadically and can be more effective for some patients than others. Some home remedies include:

  • Boric acid tablets – inserting these tablets can help clear up infections.
  • Oil of oregano – Applying oil of oregano on the vulva can help soothe the infection.
  • Greek yoghurt – Greek yoghurt is a probiotic, which means it stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria that helps fight against yeast infections. However, the yoghurt should not have sugar in it as that can accelerate the growth of candida.
  • Garlic – Inserting a single clove of peeled garlic can help clear mild infections over a period of 3-4 days. Ensure that the garlic is not cut (or accidentally pierced with your nails) as it can lead to burning.

Conclusion:

A yeast infection, though not extremely harmful, should not be taken lightly. Your vaginal health is extremely important and you must be vigilant of any infections or problems in your reproductive system. If you suffer from yeast infections very often, you should seek medical advice immediately!

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