Yeast infections are very common but most people do not know about their causes, treatment and prevention. Read this article to know more.
Vaginal yeast infection is a common condition that contains yeast and bacteria cells. However, once there is a change in the balance of bacteria and yeast they can multiply which can cause intense itching, swelling and irritation. As per Dr. Asha Hiremath, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Indiranagar, Bangalore, this condition is treatable and depending on the severity this can be either cured in a few days or may take up to 2 weeks. To know its causes, symptoms and treatment, read the complete article.
What Is Yeast Infection?
A healthy balance of bacteria and yeast is very important to maintain health and hygiene. When yeast cells multiply, they overpower good bacteria and cause infection. The most common type of yeast infection is a vaginal yeast infection that is caused in women. Vaginal hygiene is a must to keep fungal/bacterial infections at bay. In fact, yeast infection is one of the most common infections that women complain about most of the time.
Some of the symptoms to identify yeast infection is vaginal itching, burning sensation during sex/urination, painful sexual intercourse, swelling/redness around the vaginal area, rash and soreness. Seeking help from a Gynaecologist at the earliest is of prime importance as this can help in arresting the symptoms early. Any foul smell in the vaginal discharge can lead to serious consequences and must be treated immediately.
Causes of Yeast Infection
“Some of the major causes that lead to yeast infections are; hormonal pills, pregnancy, birth control pills, uncontrolled diabetes, consumption of antibiotics and vaginal sprays. There is a common myth that women can contract this infection only during the summer season but women are prone to this infection even during winters.”- Dr. Asha
Yeast infections, particularly vaginal yeast infections are caused by a fungus named candida Albicans. Certain bacteria trigger the overgrowth of yeast around the vagina that disrupts the balance of bacteria. If candida overgrow or fungus penetrates into the deeper layer of the vagina, it leads to a skin infection. The primary causes of yeast overgrowth are:
- Compromised immune system
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Antibiotic abuse that causes bacterial imbalance
- Hormone therapy or oral contraceptives use that cause high estrogen levels
These were causes of yeast infection by Candida Albicans fungus. There are other fungi that if caused by infection can result into serious complications.
What Are The Symptoms of Yeast Infections?
The common symptoms of yeast infections are:
- Vaginal rash
- Irritation and itchiness around the vagina
- Pain and soreness around the vagina
- Burning sensation while urinating and intercourse
- Red and swollen vulva
- Watery vaginal discharge
- Thick vaginal discharge
Some signs and symptoms of complicated yeast infections that you must check out and consult a doctor for treatment are excessive redness, swelling and itching around the vagina; sores and cracks that lead to tears, etc. You need to worry about yeast infections if you suffer from them multiple times in a year or you are pregnant(as vaginal infections are prevalent during pregnancy) or you have a compromised immune system. People who have STDs like HIV infection are also at a greater risk of developing yeast infections. Read about the possible risk factors of yeast infections in the next section.
Who are at risk of yeast infections?
Here are some possible risk factors for yeast infections. People who have any of these must remain cautious.
- Increased estrogen levels: Women who have higher female hormone(estrogen) levels are highly likely to get yeast infections. These include pregnancy, women taking birth control pills, women undergoing hormone therapy, etc.
- Overuse of antibiotics: While antibiotics are considered as good, their overuse is harmful to health. If someone takes antibiotics frequently, the chances are that the bacterial balance is disrupted resulting in an increased risk of yeast infection.
- Poor immunity: A stronger immune system is essential for a healthy body. An impaired immune system serves as the perfect ground for fungus and yeast attack. Therefore, people with poor immunity need to be extra careful.
- Uncontrolled diabetes: Those who have diabetes or whose blood sugar levels are poorly controlled can easily get yeast infections as compared to those with balanced blood sugar levels.
Diagnosis of yeast infections
It is easy to diagnose a yeast infection. The doctor will check for medical history on yeast infections or an STI. This will be followed by a pelvic examination of vaginal walls & cervix and also check for any secondary infections around the area. Sample cells will be collected from the vaginal area and sent for lab investigations.
How are yeast infections treated?
Yeast infections are both preventable and treatable. The treatment depends on the severity of the infection and how frequently it occurs. For example, people who have a mild yeast infection may not require medical attention. Whereas, if someone gets yeast infections 3-4 times in a year, they may need proper treatment.
Here are some of the treatment methods that doctors recommend for mild infections:
- If you have mild symptoms, the doctor may recommend a single dose of oral medicine. For severe symptoms, the dosage may be increased to 2-3 times a week. However, pregnant women with yeast infections aren’t given oral medications.
- Short-course vaginal therapy may also be advised.
- Taking antifungal medicines for some days may treat the yeast infection within a week. These include oral tablets, ointments, creams and suppositories. You can consult your doctor to know which medications may work for you.
Treatment options for severe yeast infections or those occur frequently are:
- Long-course vaginal therapy wherein the medicine course would last for 2-3 weeks and may extend up to six months.
- Multiple doses of oral medicine wherein you are supposed to have multiple doses of antifungal medicines daily. However, these are not suitable for pregnant women.
- Azole resistant therapy which is an advanced treatment method for vaginal yeast infection. In this, the medicine is capsuled directly into the vagina to kill candida fungus.
Tips to avoid yeast infection
- Wear right sized underwear– It is important to choose the right fit of the underwear and to avoid synthetic or tight-fitting underwear. As it can increase body temperature and enhance buildup of moisture in the vaginal area that can cause a yeast infection.
- Do not wear tight pants– Tight pants around the vaginal area can provide an environment to thrive for yeast infection as this can lock the moisture around your private parts
- Change your wet cloth– It’s important to change wet panties/clothes post a work out/ swim of exposure to heavy rains.
- Scented products are a complete no: Use of scented sprays/wipes around vagina is not advisable
- Barrier methods more suitable- It is advisable to use barrier methods for the prevention of fungal infection transmission
- Period Hygiene- It is extremely crucial to maintain vaginal Hygiene during the menstrual cycle. Regular change of sanitary pads, tampons is important.
- Keeping diabetes under check – Women must maintain sugar levels to avoid any serious infections and manage diabetes.
- Limit the use of antibiotics – This must be taken only under medical prescription and if it is only absolutely necessary.
Yeast infections are very common in both men and women though women are more prone to vaginal yeast infections. Early medical intervention and consultation with your gynaecologist can save you from all the suffering if you are pregnant and suffering from yeast infections. It is always better to consult a doctor to get the right treatment and stop yeast infection.
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