Yeast Infection: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention, Treatment, Home Remedies
What Is a Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection is a vaginal condition that irritates the vagina, extreme itching of the outer vaginal area (vulva) and “cottage cheese” like vaginal discharge. Symptoms are due to an overgrowth of yeast, called Candida albicans. Normally, the vagina has a balance of bacteria and candida, but a decrease in vaginal pH or hormonal changes may cause candida to multiply. Yeast infections are very common, and according to the CDC, 75 percent of all women will experience at least one yeast infection in their adult life. Depending on the severity of symptoms, self-treatment with over-the-counter medications may be appropriate. However, it is always safest to consult with a physician to receive proper diagnosis and treatment.
If You Already Have a Yeast Infection, Consider Seeing a Doctor
Call (941) 254-2717 to Schedule your Appointment
What Causes Yeast Infections?
Medications such as antibiotics, corticosteroids, birth control pills, and hormone therapy treatments can cause candida overgrowth. Women are at a higher risk for yeast infections in cases where they are overweight, pregnant, have decreased immunity due to HIV/AIDs or other medications, have uncontrolled diabetes or are menstruating. Also, although a yeast infection is not considered an STD, exposure to the candida fungus can occur during sexual intercourse.
Candida overgrowth can occur due to several factors:
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Weakened immune system
- Poor nutrition (eating too much sugar)
- Hormonal imbalances
- Some birth control pills
- Using vaginal douches
Signs and Symptoms of Yeast Infections
In addition to the burning, swelling, and itching, women with a yeast infection also experience:
- Irritation of the labia minora
- Burning while urinating
- Pain when having sexual intercourse
- Unusual vaginal discharge (with a cottage cheese consistency)
- Vaginal soreness
Depending on the severity of symptoms, self-treatment with over-the-counter anti-fungal medications may be appropriate. However, it is always safest to consult with your gynecologist to receive proper diagnosis and treatment. This is especially important, since certain sexually transmitted diseases, such as trichomoniasis and herpes are often confused for a yeast infection.
Yeast Infections During Pregnancies
Yeast infections are common during pregnancy, but if you recognize the symptoms of a yeast infection and are currently pregnant, do not take medicine to treat the infection without consulting your doctor first.
The reason why yeast infections are so common during pregnancy is that the spike in estrogen levels can often change the pH balance of a vagina. There is also more sugar in vaginal discharge during the second trimester of pregnancy, and yeast feeds off sugar. Gestational diabetes may also increase the likelihood of developing a yeast infection while pregnant.
The good news is that a yeast infection will not affect your developing baby. They can also be treated with topical creams and that they can clear up within two weeks. The bad news is that left untreated, it can be passed on to the baby’s mouth during childbirth. This is known as oral thrush.
If you’re experiencing a yeast infection during pregnancy, you should always consult with your OB-GYN to ensure that the medication you choose is safe for your baby.
How to Prevent Yeast Infections
Practicing good genital hygiene can help prevent yeast infections.
- Keep your vaginal area clean with mild, unscented soap and water.
- After using the toilet, wipe from front to back. This will help avoid spreading yeast or bacteria from your anus to your vagina or urinary tract.
- Wear cotton underwear and other undergarments that don’t lock in moisture to your genital area.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing such as jeans or panty hose.
- Change pads and tampons frequently.
- Avoid wearing a wet swimsuit for an extended period.
- Avoid using douches or scented tampons as these can disrupt the normal balance of organisms in your vagina.
Home Remedies for Yeast Infections
There are lots of OTC treatments you can buy for a yeast infection. Whenever you use a nonprescription vaginal medicine for a yeast infection it’s important that you are not pregnant, are sure your symptoms are caused by a yeast infection, and you are sure you have not been exposed to an STI. Be sure to carefully follow the directions on the package insert, as well as these guidelines.
- Avoid using soap when cleaning the area around your vagina. Rinse with water only.
- Avoid using tampons while using nonprescription vaginal medicine. Use pads instead as these won’t absorb the medicine.
- Avoid having intercourse if sex is painful. Otherwise, try a water-soluble lubricating jelly to reduce irritation. Keep in mind that certain products can weaken latex, so condoms and diaphragms may break.
- If your genital area is itchy or sore, avoid scratching the area. Try a warm bath and putting a warm, damp washcloth over the area.
Treatment for Yeast Infections
There are many different types of treatment for yeast infections. For home treatment, over-the-counter medications are available at your local drugstore. If you visit your gynecologist, he or she may prescribe you medication as well. Most medications for yeast infections take the form of antifungal cream, ointment, suppository, tablet or medicated tampon.
While over-the-counter and prescription medications have proved their effectiveness, some women prefer to utilize natural remedies. If you are interested in treating a yeast infection through natural remedies you can supplement with probiotic yogurt or boric acid suppositories. Tea tree oil as well as raw garlic has been shown to improve symptoms too.
Treatment for Recurrent Yeast Infections
If you have a yeast infection that recurs within two months of treatment, or have four or more yeast infections in a year, see your doctor.
Recurrent yeast infections can be treated with prescription oral medicine, nonprescription oral medicine, or vaginal boric acid capsules followed by less frequent medicine six months to one year after.
OBGYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch Can Help Treat Yeast Infections
If you are experiencing yeast infection symptoms call us at (941) 254-2717. We offer comprehensive gynecological services with experienced physicians who can ensure that you get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. It is especially important to seek our help if you are pregnant or experiencing severe or recurring yeast infection symptoms. Schedule an appointment today or call us for more information about our services.