Yeast infections SUCK. No way around it. They are annoying and uncomfortable and very common. Seventy-five percent of women experience a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime. Many experience it twice, some can experience one every month. This infection causes discharge, irritation, and an intense itch around the vagina and the vulva and is also called vaginal candidiasis. Even though yeast infections are troublesome, the good news is that they can be effectively treated with medication!
Unfortunately, yeast infections are still misunderstood, and there are many misconceptions about the condition. This means many women suffer more than they need to or they make their infection worse. In this article, we’ll answer some of the common questions surrounding yeast infections. We’ll explain what causes the condition, what you should do if you think you have one, and what you should expect when you to the doctor. we also tackle some of the myths about this common infection and what you can do to prevent it.
What Causes a Yeast Infection?
A fungus called candida albicans causes most vaginal yeast infections. The vagina naturally contains yeast. However, lactobacillus bacteria work to keep it in balance. When that balance is disrupted, an overgrowth of yeast occurs, or the fungus gets deeper into the layers of the vaginal cells. These lead to the symptoms associated with a yeast infection.
What Are the Symptoms of a Vaginal Yeast Infection?
The symptoms of a yeast infection can range from mild to moderate.
Symptoms of Vaginal Candidiasis
Signs of a yeast infection include:
- A thick, wide vaginal discharge which is odorless and has a cottage cheese appearance
- Watery vaginal discharge
- Itching and irritation in the vagina and vulva
- A burning sensation while urinating or during intercourse
- Redness and swelling of the vulva
- Vaginal pain and soreness
- Vaginal rash
What Are the Risk Factors for Vaginal Candidiasis?
You are more likely to get a yeast infection if you:
- Are taking antibiotics. Broad-spectrum antibiotics kill a range of bacteria, including the healthy ones in your vagina, and this can lead to an overgrowth of yeast.
- Have increased estrogen levels. If you are pregnant, undergoing estrogen hormone therapy or take birth control pills which high in estrogen, you are at greater risk of developing yeast infections.
- Have uncontrolled diabetes. If your blood sugar isn’t properly controlled, you’re at greater risk for a yeast infection than a woman whose blood sugar is well controlled.
- Have a compromised immune system. If your immune system is lowered because of HIV infection or corticosteroid therapy, you are more likely to get yeast infections.
How Long Does A Yeast Infection Last?
The duration of your yeast infection depends on how severe it is and the treatment you get.
Mild infections can clear up in about three days, but moderate to severe infections may last for as long as a week or two.
Impact of Yeast Infection Treatment
If you use an over-the-counter treatment or an at-home remedy, it may help your mild infection. However, it won’t be as effective as a prescription medication. For serious infections, mild treatments won’t get rid of the fungus as quickly as a more powerful drug. You may, therefore, experience symptoms for a longer period.
Why Do I Get A Yeast Infection Before My Period?
Many women realize that their yeast infections tend to occur just before their menstrual periods. That’s because the same hormonal changes that cause menstruation can also throw the yeast and bacteria in the vagina out of balance.
What is a Complicated Yeast Infection?
Some yeast infections are simple, but others are considered complicated. This may be due to medication you’re taking, the seriousness of your symptoms or the cause of your infection.
Signs of a Complicated Infection
You might have a complicated yeast infection if:
- You experience severe redness, itching, and swelling accompanied by tears, cracks or sores
- You experience four or more yeast infections in one year
- You have a yeast infection which is caused by a less common type of fungus
- You're pregnant
- You have uncontrolled diabetes
- Your immune system is weakened
What Other Conditions Can Be Confused with a Yeast Infection?
Some women confuse yeast infections with other more serious conditions, including bacterial vaginosis and some sexually transmitted diseases.
How Bacterial Vaginosis Differs from a Yeast Infection
BV is caused by bacterial overgrowth in the vagina and about half of the women who have it show no symptoms. However, some notice a thin gray, white or green discharge and a burning feeling when they urinate. Another symptom is a fishy smell which gets stronger after sex.
What Are Common Misconceptions About Yeast Infections?
Although yeast infections are common, there are still many commonly-held beliefs about them which are incorrect. Some misconceptions relate to the causes of the infection while others surround treatment. Let’s look at some of the myths.
Having Sex Causes Yeast Infections
Vaginal yeast infections are not sexually transmitted. However, many women avoid sexual activity when they have an infection since sex can increase the burning and inflammation. Intercourse can also be painful.
Going Swimming Can Lead to Vaginal Candidiasis
Yeast thrives in the damp environment created by wearing tight-fitting or damp clothing for a long period. However, simply going for a swim won’t cause you to develop a yeast infection. And since the condition is not contagious, you can’t catch it from being in the same pool with someone who has an infection. However, you should change into clean, dry clothing and underwear as soon as possible after you’re done swimming.
Using A Laptop Can Cause Candida Albicans
A laptop can indeed generate heat and cause you to sweat while it rests on your lap. However, it’s a myth that using a laptop regularly will increase your risk of getting a yeast infection. You simply need to ensure your vaginal area remains dry.
Garlic Can Be Used to Treat Yeast Infections
Many people believe garlic has detoxifying qualities, and they recommend that women insert a clove into their vaginas to relieve their symptoms. However, inserting foreign objects into the vagina can make infections worse or cause complications. Since there is no scientific proof that garlic cloves can cure a yeast infection, it’s best to avoid taking chances with your health.
External Vaginal Itch Creams Get Rid of Yeast Infections
It is widely believed that vaginal itch creams are a treatment for yeast infections. However, the truth is that they only temporarily relieve the itch. They don’t actually cure the fungal infection, so many women realize that they still get a discharge and other symptoms.
Does a Yeast Infection Go Away on Its Own?
Mild infections may go away on their own. However, it is best to seek treatment, regardless of the severity of the infection. The symptoms are usually quite uncomfortable to deal with, so it doesn’t make sense to suffer when you can seek treatment. Treatments are usually easy to get and use. Yeast infections which aren’t treated adequately are more likely to return. Some get worse and create bigger problems.
What Should You Do If You Think You Have A Yeast Infection?
What you do when you see the tell-tale discharge and feel the itch depends on a few factors. If you’ve had the same symptoms before and your doctor diagnosed it as a yeast infection, it may be okay to treat yourself at home.
When You Need to Seek Medical Treatment
If you have a new sexual partner, you should get a medical check-up. The itching, vaginal discharge, and burning may be an indicator of a sexually transmitted infection and not a yeast infection.
If your symptoms are different from other infections, or they, concern you for some reason, going to the doctor can give you peace of mind.
What Are the Treatments for a Yeast Infection?
Your treatment will depend on whether you have a simple infection or a complicated one.
Treatment for Simple Candida Albicans Infections
If you have a simple infection, your doctor may recommend an antifungal cream, ointment, suppository, or tablet which you will have to use for one to three days. These medications may be prescription drugs or over-the-counter solutions.
Common Treatments for Yeast Infections
The most likely treatments are:
- Butoconazole (Gynazole)
- Fluconazole (Diflucan)
- Miconazole (Monistat)
- Clotrimazole (Lotrimin)
- Terconazole (Terazol)
Treatment for Severe or Complicated Infections
If you have a complicated infection, your doctor may prescribe a 14-day regimen involving a tablet, suppository, ointment, or cream. Another option is two or three doses of Diflucan or long-term use of Diflucan once a week for six weeks. Your doctor may also prescribe extended use of a topical antifungal.
Follow-up After Treatment
After the recommended period, your doctor may advise you to follow up with them to make sure the treatment was successful. If your symptoms come back within two months, you should also schedule a follow-up appointment.
When Should You See Your Doctor Because Of Candida Albicans?
You don’t necessarily need to see a doctor every time you get a yeast infection. However, you should make an appointment if:
- You’ve never experienced yeast infection symptoms
- You're not certain that you have a yeast infection
- You’re not getting relief from over-the-counter creams or suppositories
- You develop additional symptoms
What Will the Doctor Do?
It is easy for doctors to diagnose vaginal yeast infections.
What to Expect When You See the Doctor
Your doctor will ask about your medical history, and you should mention whether you’ve had yeast infections or STIs before. After gathering this information, you may get a pelvic exam during which your physician will examine your cervix and vaginal walls. They will also look for external signs of infection.
What Happens Next During a Visit Concerning Vaginal Candidiasis
Depending on your medical history and what the exam shows, the doctor may take a sample of cells from your vagina for testing. Lab testing is usually done for women who develop yeast infections regularly or those whose infections won’t go away.
Are Yeast Infections Contagious?
Vaginal yeast infections aren’t considered STDs, and they aren’t contagious. However, they can be passed from person to person during sexual activity. Sexual contact can also lead to infections since your body may react badly to another person’s genital yeast and bacteria.
Can I Pass on My Yeast Infection to a Male Partner?
It is uncommon, but a man can get a yeast infection after having unprotected sex with a woman who has candidal vaginitis. That’s why you should always use a condom if you have sex while you have a yeast infection. In men, the condition usually presents as redness, white spots or a dry peeling rash on the penis. Men may also experience itching, burning, or irritation. Uncircumcised men have an increased risk of developing yeast infections.
How Can I Prevent a Yeast Infection in the Future?
After you’ve had one uncomfortable yeast infection, you’ll want to avoid getting another one. To reduce the likelihood of developing a yeast infection, there are a number of things you shouldn’t do.
Try to avoid:
- Wearing underwear which is extremely tight
- Wearing underwear which doesn’t let your vaginal area breathe
- Douching since this takes away some of the normal vaginal bacteria which protect you from infection
- Using scented pads, tampons or bubble baths
- Taking very hot baths or using hot tubs excessively
- Taking antibiotics when it’s not necessary
- Staying in wet clothing for a long time
There are also some practices you may want to adopt.
What to Do to Prevent Yeast Infections
To help stave off future infections, you should:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Eat yogurt or take probiotic supplements with lactobacillus
- Replace feminine products often
- Wear natural fibers like cotton, linen, or silk
- Wash your underwear in hot water