How to Prevent Yeast Infections - Treatments and Cures
What is a vaginal yeast infection?
Vaginal yeast infections are very common--three out of four women will experience at least one in their lifetimes. A healthy vagina typically contains many bacteria and a small number of yeast cells, and a yeast infection occurs when the naturally occurring yeast cells grow too rapidly. This can happen when something disrupts the balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina, including antibiotics, new partners, or hormone shifts caused by pregnancy or hormone replacement therapy. Health problems such as diabetes or HIV infections can lead to an imbalance as well.
Vaginal yeast infections are sometimes called yeast vaginitis, Candidal vaginitis, or Candidal vulvovaginitis, and most vaginal yeast infections are caused by a type of fungus known as Candida albicans.
What are the symptoms?
- Itching, soreness, or irritation in the vagina
- Pain or burning during urination or sex
- Redness and swelling at the entrance to the vagina (the vulva)
- Abnormal vaginal discharge that can range from slightly watery, white discharge to a thick, white, chunky discharge similar in appearance to cottage cheese
What are the risk factors?
Broad-spectrum antibiotics, which are commonly prescribed to combat a wide range of bacteria, also kill the healthy bacteria in the vagina, disrupting the balance between bacteria and yeast. This can lead to an overgrowth of yeast.
Women who are pregnant, taking high-dose estrogen birth control pills, or taking estrogen hormone therapy tend to experience yeast infections more frequently.
Women who have impaired immunity due to corticosteroid therapy or HIV infection are more likely to experience yeast infections.
For women with diabetes, it is important to keep blood-sugar levels well controlled. Women with diabetes who have poorly controlled blood sugar levels are more likely to develop yeast infections than women with diabetes who have well-controlled blood sugar levels.
If you think you have a yeast infection, make an appointment with your provider.
What are the treatmements for yeast infection?
Left untreated, yeast infections will usually go away on their own, but the itching can often be unpleasant. Infections respond well to over-the-counter medications and home remedies.
- Adding two cups of vinegar to a warm bath and soaking for 15 minutes can ease symptoms in some women after two or three soaks. It’s important to thoroughly dry off after soaking.
- Applying plain yogurt with natural cultures to the area once or twice a day can help restore the balance of bacteria and reduce irritation.
You can also try over-the-counter medications. We recommend at least three-day treatments, as the one-day treatments are often ineffective. Ask the pharmacist for guidance.
When should I see a provider?
It’s important to make an appointment with a provider if this is the first time you have experienced symptoms, in order to rule out the possibility of other conditions.
Before your appointment, make a list of your symptoms and any important medical information, including all medications, vitamins, or supplements you take. Also make a list of questions, including how to prevent yeast infections, and what to do if your symptoms return after treatment. Avoid using tampons or douching before your appointment.
What can I expect during my appointment?
Your provider may ask you questions about your medical history and perform a pelvic exam to diagnose a yeast infection.
He or she may first do a visual examination of the genitals before inserting an instrument called a speculum into the vagina. This is done in order to hold the vaginal walls open while your doctor examines the vagina.
He or she may also collect a sample of discharge to look at under the microscope, or to send to an outside lab for further testing if the diagnosis isn’t clear.