Most women experience a vaginal yeast infection at some time of their life. Yeast (Candida albicans) is part of the normal flora of the body. These fungal organisms are found in small numbers on the skin, mouth, digestive tract, and in the vagina. They do not usually cause symptoms. However, these can proliferate and cause distressing symptoms when certain conditions favor their growth. Learn more about vaginal yeast infection, its causes, symptoms and treatment below.
What Is Vaginal Yeast Infection?
When the normal balance of microbial growth in the vagina and surrounding areas (vulva) is upset, overgrowth of fungal organisms called Candida albicans may occur. Although these organisms are usually present in small numbers in this area as well as in other areas of the body, their proliferation may cause an infection called candidiasis, also known as moniliasis.
Vaginal yeast infection or Candidal vulvovaginitis occurs at least once in 75% of women and more than once in 50%. It can be mild to moderate in severity. If it occurs for less than four episodes in a year it is considered to be uncomplicated. However, in some women, symptoms of inflammation may be severe and they may experience more than four episodes in a year. These infections may be associated with pregnancy, disease or immune deficiency, and they are considered to be complicated.
Causes and Risk Factors
Vaginal yeast infection is caused by overgrowth of the fungus C. albicans. This may be due to certain risk factors like stress, pregnancy, menstruation, hormonal imbalance, poor diet, and certain medications such as antibiotics, and diseases like diabetes and HIV/AIDS. A deficiency in one’s immune system also predisposes to fungal infection, such as in people who are undergoing chemotherapy or steroid therapy.
Vaginal thrush, as it is sometimes called, is more common among women between the ages of twenty to thirty, and less common in girls who have not started menstruation or in women who have begun menopause.
Candidiasis is not related to sexual behavior or the number of sexual partners. It is not transmitted sexually, nor is it associated with poor hygiene. However, wearing tight fitting clothes may put one at risk for developing the infection.
Signs and Symptoms of Candidiasis
Candidal vulvovaginitis may be recognized when signs of inflammation are present in the area, such as redness of the vulva and vagina, edema, cracking of skin and in severe cases, the presence of sores or satellite lesions.
Symptoms experienced include:
- vulval itching and burning
- pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse
- pain or discomfort during urination
- vulval soreness and irritation
- odorless “cottage cheese” vaginal discharge
Women who experience the signs and symptoms of vaginal candidiasis should consult a doctor for proper evaluation and treatment. Most of the symptoms experienced are similar to other conditions related to sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and Chlamydia infection. Therefore proper diagnosis is necessary for treatment.
To diagnose the disease the doctor will have to perform a pelvic exam to examine the signs of the vulvovaginitis and to take swab samples of the discharge. The swab specimen will then be examined in the laboratory to identify the presence of C. albicans.
Before treatment be sure to inform your health provider if you are pregnant or lactating as this might alter the drug choices in the treatment of the vaginal infection. Mild infections or uncomplicated yeast infection may resolve without treatment although symptoms are usually irritating. If vaginal yeast infections occur very often proper evaluation must be done because they might be associated with other undiagnosed or untreated diseases like diabetes.
Related post: Yeast Infection No More Review – Leila’s Story
Drug treatment comes in various forms, including tablets for oral intake, creams for topical application, vaginal tablets and suppositories for intravaginal insertion. Some of these treatments are available over the counter although some are available only upon prescription.
Topical creams and suppositories are used in short course treatments (single dose or 1-3 day therapy). They are preferred especially for pregnant and lactating women because their action is confined locally and drugs do not enter the general system. However, these products are oil-based and might weaken latex condoms and diaphragms when they are in use.
Yeast Infection No More is 12-hour relief program created by Linda Allen. She had a 12-year fungal overgrowth and through her own experiences, she learned how to cure the infection holistically. Although this is a comprehensive and tedious guide, you will learn everything you need here. The program is clinically proven and it is a popular choice among most yeast infection sufferers. Learn more about the program and read their reviews here.
Topical Creams, Ointments, Vaginal Tablets and Suppositories
Topical medications containing vaginal antifungals include:
Adequate treatment results in relief of symptoms and negative cultures in 80%–90% of patients. Since these are available in many pharmacies without the need for prescription, women who experience similar symptoms might use these for repeated episodes. However caution must be observed because this can lead to unnecessary cost (if there is no actual infection) or delay of diagnosis in those who may be suffering other conditions.
Fluconazole 150 mg tablets are available for oral use as a single dose, a more convenient alternative. Women who might be pregnant are not prescribed. Side effects from these tablets are rare with one dose, but they may include nausea, headaches and abdominal pain.
Indiscriminate use of antifungals can lead to resistant infections which do not respond to treatment. This is why it is better to get proper medical advice than to do self treatment for repeated infections.
Prevention of Vaginal Yeast Infection
It is always better to prevent getting the infection than to suffer the symptoms and seek treatment. These are some ways women can avoid getting candidiasis:
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting underwear and clothes like leggings, stockings and pants. Cotton underwear is best for adequate absorption of moisture around the vaginal area.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grain and nonfat dairy products.
- Avoid spreading yeast from the anus to the vagina by wiping the area from front to back after using the toilet.
- Exercise proper hygiene and use only mild, unscented soap to wash the vaginal area.
- Avoid using products that may alter the natural balance of acidity in the vagina such as deodorant tampons, scented toilet paper, feminine sprays, talcs, or perfumes.
- Avoid douching which can also alter the normal balance of microorganisms in the vagina.
- Maintain normal blood sugar to avoid diabetes.
- Avoid indiscriminate use of antibiotics which can alter the balance of normal skin flora.