Contrary to popular belief, yeast infections are not technically classified as STDs. Formally called vaginal candidiasis, yeast infections can be transmitted during intercourse or from oral contact with genitals, though they generally develop independently. When conditions within the vagina change, the risk of a yeast infection rises. In this post, we’re going to demystify yeast infections, and discuss causes, symptoms, treatments and more.
5 Common Causes of Yeast Infections
Normally, the vagina maintains a certain balance of bacteria, which helps protect it from infections. This combination of bacteria includes helpful strains, as well as yeast, and other harmful strains. Lactobacillus, a bacteria present in the vagina, aids in creating an environment unstable for an abundance of yeast. When the balance of this bacteria is askew, then the chance for an infection arises. The below factors make women more prone to an imbalance in this bacteria, which leads to a yeast infection:
- Antibiotics/ Steroids- During their intended mission of fighting infections, antibiotics and/or corticosteroids may inadvertently decrease the amount of helpful bacteria in the vagina.
- Diabetes- When diabetics fail to properly monitor their blood sugar levels, the glycogen levels in the vagina may be affected. Alternatively, excessive sugar intake may cause the pH of the vagina to rise.
- Contraceptives– Especially true for hormonal methods, contraceptives can alter the chemical balance within the vagina.
- Pregnancy– During pregnancy, the body releases different hormones. This can also negatively impact the bacteria present in the vagina.
- Douching- Despite common belief that douching cleans the vagina, it can actually have a negative impact. Douching removes the helpful bacteria from the vagina, making it easier for the harmful bacteria to rise in numbers.
Having a poor diet, sleeping habits, and other generally unhealthy behaviors can also increase the risk for a yeast infection.
Yeast Infection Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms of vaginal yeast infections can be quite uncomfortable. The most specific indicators is a thick white vaginal discharge, often accompanied by itching or soreness in the vagina. Other less specific symptoms include:
- Itching in the vulva, or the tissue that surrounds the vagina
- A burning sensation during intercourse or urination
- Soreness or pain in the vaginal opening
- A rash, redness or swelling in the vaginal area
While these symptoms are most common for a yeast infection, more serious and varied symptoms might result from a complicated infection.
Gynecologists can most accurately determine whether or not patients have a yeast infection by sending a discharge sample to the laboratory for testing. A pelvic exam can also help gynecologists to gauge whether or not there are any signs of infection in the area surrounding the vagina.
How are Yeast Infections Treated?
As there are several different species of yeast that can become prominent, there are different treatments tailored to specific causes.
For basic vaginal yeast infection treatments, antifungal vaginal creams are normally an adequate treatment. Because they are oil-based, these medications might weaken the material used in latex condoms and diaphragms. A dose of diflucan, an oral antifungal, can also be used to treat this infection.
When yeast infections are more severe, they require a more vigorous and diverse treatment.
Antifungal creams will generally be recommended for 1-2 weeks, along with the previously mentioned diflucan. In extremely severe cases, gynecologists will also prescribe maintenance medications, which help the body to restore the balance of hormones and prevent recurring infections in the interim.
Taking more medication than recommended may result in a decreased resistance to yeast, which can have negative effects in the future.
3 Yeast Infection Prevention Tips
Aside from the aforementioned causes of yeast infections, there are a few ways you can prevent any future infections:
- Do not wear especially tight- or loose- fitting clothes. These clothes can constrict your body, creating an environment for yeast to strengthen its numbers.
- Avoid wearing nylon clothing, which will absorb moisture and create ideal yeast-growth conditions.
- Do not wear wet clothing. If you go swimming, quickly change out of your wet bathing suit. Also, avoid submerging your body in hot tubs and baths.
With the right treatment, we can help you to quickly and effectively treat a yeast infection. At Stony Brook Women’s Health, we care deeply about helping each patient to understand and overcome all female health-related obstacles. If you are experiencing disconcerting symptoms, contact us to schedule an appointment.