As many as three out of four women experience a vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime, and many of those women have more than one yeast infection. A yeast infection is rarely serious, but it can be very uncomfortable while it lasts. A yeast infection is the result of different fungi that normally grow in the body growing too rapidly and causing unpleasant symptoms such as intense itching of the vagina and vulva (tissues outside the vagina), and a thick, odorless discharge that may resemble cottage cheese. Some women also experience soreness of the vagina, a burning sensation during urination, and painful sex.
Yeast Infection Causes
The reasons why vaginal yeast infections happen are not fully understood, but there are some conditions that create a favorable environment for the candida fungus to grow rapidly. Some of these reasons include:
- Use of antibiotics, which decreases the healthy, naturally-occurring vaginal bacteria and change the pH of the vagina that allows an overgrowth of yeast.
- Birth control pills, as a result of the increased level of estrogen in the body. Women on high-dose estrogen birth control pills are at risk.
- Hormone replacement therapy. Women who take estrogen for hormone therapy may also get a yeast infection, for the same reason.
- Pregnancy. During pregnancy, hormones are constantly fluctuating, making a yeast infection possible.
- Diabetes. Poorly controlled blood sugar levels can make a woman more prone to a yeast infection.
- HIV/AIDS. The body is less able to protect itself, making yeast infections more likely.
- Douching. Douching disrupts the natural bacteria of the vagina, and is highly discouraged by gynecologists, because the vagina is a naturally self-cleaning organ.
Yeast Infection Diagnosis
If you have never had a yeast infection, you should see your doctor to determine if you have one, or another form of vaginitis. You doctor will perform a pelvic exam to examine the genitals for signs of infection, and then collect a sample of vaginal discharge for examination under a microscope if a vaginal culture test is ordered.
Yeast Infection Treatment
Women who have had yeast infections before do not have to see their gynecologist, they may simply purchase over-the-counter medications such as vaginal creams and suppositories to treat the infection. An uncomplicated yeast infection is one that comes infrequently, has mild or moderate symptoms, and responds to self-care. Women may purchase vaginal cream, ointment or tablets from drugstores that usually clears up the infection and discomfort within 3-7 days. During this time, a woman should refrain from sexual activity.
Complicated yeast infections may call for more long-course vaginal therapy, with cream, ointment, tablets or suppositories being used for up to two weeks. An antifungal medication may be taken to curtail fungus overgrowth. Some women may be given a vaginal suppository to take once a week instead of an oral medication.
During a yeast infection, women should wear loose pants or dresses so the vagina can get adequate air, and women should wear cotton underwear. Tight-fitting underwear, pants or pantyhose should be avoided. Women should also avoid going in hot tubs during a yeast infection, which may worsen the infection. Underwear should be changed frequently, and washed in hot water. Eating yogurt is a way to possibly shorten a yeast infection, but this hasn’t been definitively proven.
This type of vaginal infection is not as well studied as yeast infections, but it is also common. IT begins as a result of an overgrowth of vaginal bacteria.
Bacterial Vaginosis Symptoms
- Intensely itchy vagina
- Sore vagina
- Painful intercourse
- Foul-smelling discharge, especially after sex
- Discolored vaginal discharge
Bacterial Vaginosis Cause
Any woman can get a bacterial vaginal infection, but they are most common in women of childbearing years, and especially in sexually-active women. Bacterial vaginosis is not an STD, although it is theorized that sexual intercourse can cause the infection by repeatedly thrusting bacteria further into the vagina. Some women with new sexual partners may experience a bacterial vaginal infection.
Bacterial Vaginosis Diagnosis
Bacterial vaginosis is diagnosed during a pelvic exam, where a sample of vaginal secretions may be taken and checked under a microscope. A pH test may also indicate bacterial vaginosis, and a more acidic environment is a clue of bacterial vaginosis.
Bacterial Vaginosis Treatment
Your doctor will prescribe a vaginal suppository, and oral medication to kill the infection. Women should be aware that a bacterial vaginal infection cannot be cured with self-care, and over-the-counter medication used to treat yeast infections will not clear up bacterial vaginosis.
If vaginitis has caused you pain and discomfort, it's time you finally got long-lasting relief. Don't go another minute untreated, West Medical is here to help. If you suspect you have a vaginal infection, please call West Medical Gynecology to learn more, or to set up an appointment at (855) 690-0565.
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