Yeast infections are incredibly common. In fact, seventy-five percent of women will experience at least one yeast infection during their lifetime. Out of those women, about half of them will have two or more recurrences. Yeast infections can be tricky to deal with and can be easily confused with other vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis, but knowing what symptoms to watch for and the proper diagnosis, it can be a bit less overwhelming to deal with.
What is a Vaginal Yeast Infection?
According to Mayo Clinic, a yeast infection is a fungal infection that irritates the tissues at the vaginal opening. A yeast infection isn’t a sexually transmitted disease. However, there is an elevated risk of experiencing a vaginal yeast infection with regular sexual activity. Anyone can experience a yeast infection, and it can happen at any time.
What are the Symptoms of a Vaginal Yeast Infection?
Vaginal yeast infections are known to cause a clumpy, thick, and white vaginal discharge that doesn’t typically smell but it can smell slightly off than normal discharge. Some women may also notice a whitish, creamy coating around or in the vagina. Often, the appearance of this vaginal discharge is described as cottage cheese.
The majority of yeast infections will lead to redness, burning, and/or itching around or in the vagina. Itching can progress the longer you have the infection. Intercourse can become painful and uncomfortable with the infection. Severe cases of yeast infections can lead to sores or fissures on your vulva or vagina. Some people may notice burning while urinating.
You should make an appointment with your doctor if:
- You’re not 100 percent sure it’s a yeast infection
- This is your first yeast infection
- You develop other symptoms
- Your symptoms don’t get better after over-the-counter treatments like vaginal creams or suppositories
What Causes Vaginal Yeast Infections?
Candida, a fungus that is naturally occurring around the vaginal area, and the bacteria called Lactobacillus, keep the growth under control. However, if there is an imbalance within the body, the bacteria won’t do its job properly and will lead to yeast overgrowth causing a yeast infection.
There are several factors when it comes to the cause of vaginal yeast infection such as:
- Weakened immune system
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Hormonal imbalance around the time of a menstrual cycle
- Poor eating habits
- Poor sleep
Candida albicans is a certain type of yeast that is the culprit for the majority of yeast infections. Thankfully, these types of infections can typically be easy to treat.
If you have a yeast infection that is recurring or issues battling a current yeast infection, a different type of candida could be the culprit.
How to Diagnose a Yeast Infection
If you’ve had a yeast infection before, it’s easy to tell that’s exactly what you’re dealing with. However, if it’s your first time with one and you only suspect it could be a yeast infection, it may be worthwhile to have your doctor diagnose it properly. If you have additional symptoms than the common yeast infection symptoms, it’s ideal to get a medical diagnosis as well.
Diagnosis is usually easy with yeast infections. A doctor will begin by asking your history, including if you ever experienced an STI (sexually transmitted infection).
After you review your medical history, your doctor may perform a pelvic exam to check your cervix and vaginal walls. Based on what the doctor finds, they may need to gather cells from the vagina - which is a super quick process - and the cells will get sent to the lab for further examination. Sometimes lab tests will be ordered for someone who experiences yeast infections regularly or ones that won’t completely go away despite treatment.
Yeast Infection Treatment
A doctor will recommend a treatment that will be ideal specifically for you. The type of treatment will be based on how severe your symptoms are.
Simple infections - A doctor usually gives instructions for a 1-3 day treatment plan of an antifungal tablet, ointment, cream, or suppository. The medications can either be in over-the-counter or prescription form.
Some common medications are:
- Clotrimazole (Lotrimin
- Butoconazole (Gynazole
- Fluconazole (Diflucan)
- Terconazole (Terazol)
- Miconazole (Monistat)
Complicated infections - A doctor will usually treat a yeast infection issue as complicated or severe if you:
- Have had over four yeast infections in one year
- Have severe itching, swelling, and redness that progresses to tears or sores in the vaginal tissue
- Are Pregnant
- Get an infection from a different type of Candida aside from Candida albicans
- Have HIV
- Have a weakened immune system due to medication or uncontrolled diabetes
Some possible medication or treatment for complicated cases of yeast infections are:
- Long-term use of fluconazole once per week for six weeks
- Prolonged use of topical antifungal medication
- 14-day tablet, ointment, or cream, or suppository
Are Yeast Infections Contagious?
A yeast infection isn’t considered an STI; however, they still can be contagious. It’s possible to pass a yeast infection with vaginal or oral intercourse and even kissing someone who has oral thrush, which is a yeast infection inside of the mouth.
If a mother has a vaginal yeast infection present while giving birth, a baby can get a fungal type of diaper rash. Breastfeeding is another way to pass a yeast infection to a baby’s mouth. If overgrowth of Candida is present around the breast.
Keep in mind that while yeast infections can spread to someone else, it’s not like other infections where you can catch it by air or even using the same shower as an individual who has the infection.
Yeast Infection Prevention
If you have a yeast infection now or have in the past, you can probably guess what caused it. Many women experience the dreaded yeast infection symptoms after taking a round of antibiotics. You can take part in some habits that can help you avoid recurring infections and prevent them altogether (for the most part):
- Eat yogurt or take supplements that have lactobacillus
- Eat a healthy, nutritious diet
- Replace feminine products regularly
- Wash underwear in hot water
- Wear natural fibers like silk, linen, and cotton
- Using feminine deodorant and scented pads or tampons.
- Wearing tight leggings, tights, and pantyhose
- Sitting in hot baths frequently or hot tubs
- Sitting in bathing suits or other wet clothing
Yeast infections are overwhelming to deal with. They can be quite uncomfortable and can disrupt your entire day. Some people don’t like to talk about them, but just know they are very common. Always discuss any unpleasant symptoms with your doctor. Whether you want to learn more about yeast infections or if you want to discuss some present symptoms with a doctor, make an appointment with The Woman’s Clinic to discuss options.