Candidiasis or a yeast infection is a highly common medical condition. The vagina naturally houses bacteria and yeast, which helps keep it in a healthy state. The problems begin when these start to grow in great numbers resulting in a disturbance in their normal balance. As a result, there might be irritation, swelling, and itching in the vaginal area.
Vaginal yeast infections are highly treatable, with proper and timely treatment the symptoms can disappear as early as a few days, but in some cases, they may take a few weeks to go away.
Contrary to myths, vaginal yeast infections do not come under sexually transmitted diseases or STDs since these usually spread with sexual contact. Whereas in the case of yeast infections apart from sexually active women, they can also occur in women that are not sexually active. Moreover, those women that have previously had yeast infections are more likely to get them again.
SYMPTOMS OF VAGINAL YEAST INFECTIONS
Some of the most common symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include:
- itching in the vaginal area
- inflammation of the vagina
- a burning sensation while peeing or having sex
- pain while having sex
- redness around the vagina
- a rash in the vaginal area
Apart from these, those women that have a yeast infection are also most likely to experience vaginal discharge that is white-grey and looks chunky like cottage cheese. At the same time, some women might also experience vaginal discharge that is more on the watery side.
The symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are more likely to worsen as time passes; that is why immediate medical attention is very important.
CAUSES OF VAGINAL YEAST INFECTIONS
Candida is a type of fungus that is naturally present in the vagina. The bacteria Lactobacillus makes sure that its number remains in check. Sometimes due to the overgrowth of the fungus cells along with the inability of the bacteria to stop its growth creates an imbalance which then prompts the growth of yeast cells in an uncontrolled way resulting in a yeast infection.
The factors that cause yeast infections are:
some antibiotics which can severely reduce the amount of Lactobacillus in the vagina
- being pregnant
- diabetes that is not treated
- a weakened immune system
- eating foods with a very high sugar content
- an imbalance in the level of hormones
- lack of proper sleep
Most commonly, it is the Candida albicans, a type of yeast that is responsible for causing yeast infections. However, yeast infections can easily be treated.
DIAGNOSIS OF VAGINAL YEAST INFECTIONS
Diagnosing vaginal yeast infections is a very easy task. The doctor might ask about the patient’s medical history and whether they had it previously or not. Apart from that, the doctor might also ask about whether they have suffered from a sexually transmitted disease.
Additionally, a pelvic exam can also follow where the doctor examines the cervix and the vaginal walls. They can also look for any signs of infections. Next, the doctor might take some samples of your vaginal cells to be examined in a laboratory. Such tests are extremely helpful if the woman has a case of recurring yeast infections or if they have a hard time getting rid of the infection.
TREATMENT OF VAGINAL YEAST INFECTIONS
Treatment of a yeast infection is decided by the doctor based on how severe the symptoms are. Not all yeast infections are the same; that is why the doctor might suggest a different treatment for different types of it.
For simple yeast infections, the doctor might suggest ointments, creams suppositories or pills with antifungal properties. These might be prescribed for 1 to 3 days. Some common medicines for treating simple yeast infections are:
- terconazole- (Terazol)
- fluconazole- (Diflucan)
- miconazole -(Monistat)
- butoconazole -(Gynazole)
- clotrimazole -(Lotrimin)
In the case of simple yeast infections, women need to go for follow-ups as well. A follow-up is also necessary if the signs have come back within the period of 2 months. For those that do not want to see a doctor can also go for over the counter medications.
COMPLICATED YEAST INFECTIONS
Sometimes yeast infections can also be complicated with severe symptoms like:
intense itching, irritation and swelling in the vagina that can also cause tears and sores
- if a woman has had four yeast infection in a year
- Candida albicans is responsible for most yeast infections, and if it is not caused by it then it can be termed as complicated
- diabetes that is not controlled
- a weakened immune system
- if it occurs in someone that has HIV or is pregnant
Treatment for complicated yeast infections include:
- antifungal suppository, cream, ointment for a period of two weeks
- doses of fluconazole (Diflucan) for two to three times
- fluconazole (Diflucan) as a long term treatment method usually recommended for six weeks
- topical application of antifungal medicines again for long term use
For symptoms that keep coming back, it is important to get your sexual partner tested as well. In addition to that, the use of condoms is also recommended.
HOME REMEDIES FOR VAGINAL YEAST INFECTIONS
If you do not want to take the help of prescription medicines, you can also go for home remedies to ease your yeast infection symptoms. However, they might not be as effective as prescribed medications. Some home remedies for yeast infections are:
- applying coconut oil
- tea tree cream
- vaginal suppositories that contain boric acid
- eating unflavored yogurt or inserting it in the vagina
One thing to note before applying anything on your vagina is to have clean hands.
HOW YEAST INFECTION AFFECTS MEN
Yeast infections, although they are most commonly seen in women, can also affect men sometimes. It affects the penis, and so it is called a penile yeast infection. Candida is also present in men’s bodies, and an increase in its number can cause infections. The most affected areas in men is the groin because there are many folds of skin present in that area.
Men mostly get penile yeast infections due to having unprotected sex with a woman who is suffering from a yeast infection. That is why wearing a condom during sex can greatly prevent these. The symptoms may include white patches and redness to appear on the penis along with a burning sensation.
HOW YEAST INFECTION AFFECTS WOMEN
Yeast infections in women are very common so much so that 3 in 4 women are estimated to get affected by it twice in their lifetime. In order to help contain the infections and to not let its symptoms get worse, it is important to get yeast infections treated as soon as possible. Yeast infections are also said to return in women that either has a weakened immune system, have diabetes, or are pregnant.
HOW YEAST INFECTION AFFECTS BABIES
Babies also get affected by yeast infections which is most commonly known as a diaper rash. Diaper rash can also be caused by other things apart from an overgrowth of yeast. If you notice that the diaper rash does not go away even after the use of anti- diaper rash creams. Along with that, seeing severe red spots in the groin area of the baby can also be a sign of a yeast infection.
Seeing a paediatrician, in that case, becomes very important.
CAN YEAST INFECTIONS SPREAD?
Although yeast infections are not categorized as a sexually transmitted disease, they can still spread. They can be spread via vaginal and oral sex. They can also be spread via kissing someone that has oral thrush or sharing sex toys with someone.
A yeast infection can also spread to a baby during birth; it is known as a diaper rash. Since Candida can also be present on the breast, they can be spread to a baby while breastfeeding them.
YEAST INFECTIONS AND PREGNANCY
Due to the imbalance in the level of hormones, yeast infections are very common in pregnant women. If you feel that you have a yeast infection, it is always recommended to see a doctor as soon as possible. For treating yeast infection in a pregnant woman, different steps are taken unlike in the case of women that are not pregnant.
Pregnant women cannot take antifungal pills as they might cause birth defects. Therefore the use of antifungal ointments and creams are recommended instead. Although yeast infection is not fatal for the baby, there is a high chance that the infection will be transmitted to the baby while giving birth.
YEAST INFECTION AND UTI
Along with yeast infection, urinary tract infection, or UTI is also very common in women. Sometimes these two can affect a woman at the same time. Although most people consider these two as the same thing, but they are completely different. Bacteria cause UTI, and it affects the urinary system of the body, including the kidneys, bladder, and the urethra. Not urinating when you need to along with having unprotected sex and being infected with sexually transmitted diseases can lead to UTI.
The symptoms of UTI are very different, it does not cause any discharge, but rather you might notice blood in the urine. Along with that, UTI can also cause pain in the pelvic area. UTI should be treated early on as delay in treatment can cause damage to the kidneys.
TEST FOR YEAST INFECTION
The diagnosis for the first yeast infection should be very thorough in order to confirm that it is due to Candida and not because of any other serious illness.
The doctor might examine your pelvic area, along with the redness and swelling around the vagina. The diagnosis might also involve a sample test of the vaginal fluid. Based on the results of these tests, the doctor will prescribe the appropriate treatment.
INFECTION AFTER HAVING SEX
Although yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted disease, it can spread through sexual intercourse. The main reason for yeast infection is the imbalance in the number of Candida, but there are other factors that can cause yeast infections.
Having vaginal sex or the use of sex toys can infect the vagina with bacteria and other pathogens. Apart from that, having unprotected sex with a male with a penile yeast infection can also cause vaginal yeast infections.
In the same way, men can also develop penile yeast infection by having unprotected sex with a woman that has a yeast infection.
One of the most commonly seen vaginal infections is bacterial vaginosis. It usually occurs in women that are between the ages of 15 -44 years. One of the main causes of bacterial vaginosis is an imbalance in the natural equilibrium of bacteria due to douching and having unprotected sex.
Both yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis have almost the same symptoms, which include itching, discharge, and a burning sensation. A yeast infection is not that dangerous but bacterial vaginosis if it is not treated on time there can be serious consequences like infertility, risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
HOW TO PREVENT YEAST INFECTION
Some ways to prevent yeast infection are:
- taking a balanced diet
- including yogurt in your diet or supplements containing Lactobacillus
- wearing undergarments made with cotton or linen
- washing undergarments in hot water
- avoid wearing tight undergarments
- do not use feminine products that are scented
- avoid wearing wet undergarments
- stay away from taking hot baths regularly
- avoid douching
TREATING VAGINAL YEAST INFECTION WITH ESSENTIAL OILS
Essential oils have been used to treat a number of ailments from skin conditions to headaches and such. They are also garnering a lot of attention as a possible home remedy for yeast infections. However, despite the claims, there is no scientific proof of their efficacy.
One thing to note is that whenever you are using essential oils, it is important to do a small patch test beforehand since essential oils are concentrated, they can irritate the skin and also cause allergies. Since the skin around the vagina is very sensitive, you need to be even more cautious.
YEAST INFECTION VS PERIODS
Yeast infections are most likely to occur in the days before your period starts, and so it is not common to have periods and suffer from a yeast infection at the same time. The main reason behind this is the imbalance in the level of hormones. If you are suspecting a possible yeast infection due to the occurrence of yellow-colored discharge keep in mind that other symptoms like redness, itching, and burning should also be there in order for it to be considered a yeast infection. For such symptoms, it is always best to consult a doctor.
Yeast infections are more common than you think, in order for the symptoms to go away sooner, it is important to get treated as soon as possible as delay in treatment means the worsening of symptoms. For yeast infections that come back again and again and last for more than two months, it is best to consult a doctor.