What You Need To Know About Vaginal Yeast Infections

How To Keep Your Vagina Healthy

Young woman wearing white briefs and vest, hand on hip, mid section
Credit: James Darell/Getty Images

Seventy-five percent of all women will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection during her life, and many are plagued by recurrent yeast infections. Symptoms include itching, burning, redness, and irritation of the vaginal area. Severe yeast infections may cause swelling of the vulva and, in some cases, women experience painful and/or frequent urination, caused by inflammation of the urethral opening.

A more visual sign of a possible yeast infection is a vaginal discharge that is thicker than normal, and which appears white and curd-like (almost like cottage cheese). Sexual intercourse may be painful due to inflammation and dryness.

What Causes Yeast Infections?

Canidida albicans is a yeast-like fungus that is often found in the mouth, vagina, and intestinal tract; it is a normal inhabitant of humans that typically does not have any adverse effects. Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of these normal fungi. Overgrowth of Canidida is often a result of recent use of antibiotics. Yeast infections can also be caused by wearing clothing such as nylon or lycra that traps in moisture and heat. Other factors that often contribute to infection include pregnancy, obesity, PMS, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes. Finally, other possible causes include the use of oral contraceptives, and the consumption of large amounts of sugars, starches, and yeasts.

If It's Not a Yeast Infection, What Could It Be?

Bacterial vaginitis is a far more prevalent vaginal infection than yeast infections and is characterized by a foul odor. Untreated bacterial vaginitis can result in pelvic inflammatory disease, and can lead to infertility. 

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhea and herpes can also be mistaken for yeast infections.

Unless a woman is absolutely positive that her vaginal infection is yeast-related, she should seek the advice of her physician before considering self-treatment.

Women spend $60 million annually on OTC products and many times vaginal yeast infections are not the true culprit. Vaginal yeast infections commonly are misdiagnosed by women who buy one of the over-the-counter remedies which are available in the U.S. Self-treatment of vaginal yeast infections should never be attempted by any woman who has never been first diagnosed for at least one yeast infection by her physician.

If a woman is able to determine that her symptoms are truly caused by yeast, she has several treatment options she may choose from, including a variety of creams which are available at pharmacies throughout the U.S. Treatments with OTC products range from one to seven days. Creams available include brand names such as Monistat, Femstat, Gyne-Lotrimin, and Mycostatin.

Women who prefer a less messy alternative to the creams that are sold OTC may ask her physician for a prescription medication such as Diflucan, a one-dose oral medication for the treatment of yeast infection. Other oral medications include Nizoral, which requires that oral medication be taken for seven to 14 days either once or twice daily, depending on your physician's recommendations.

Remember, it is always advisable to phone your physician to discuss your symptoms and ask for his/her recommendation regarding the type of treatment that is best for you.

Tips to Prevent Yeast Infections

Always wear white cotton panties; avoid nylon and lycra as much as possible; never wear panty hose without wearing cotton panties underneath.

Post-menopausal women and women who use oral contraceptives may find using a vaginal lubricant during sexual intercourse helpful in preventing vaginal discomfort and irritation.

Yeast is a normal inhabitant of the intestinal tract; always wipe from front to back after a bowel movement to prevent transferring yeast to the vaginal area; care must be taken during sexual intercourse to prevent vaginal infections from occurring due to contamination with organisms from the bowel or rectum.

Some women find eating one cup of yogurt a day when taking antibiotics is helpful to prevent the yeast infections that often follow antibiotic treatment; however, yogurt alone will not cure vaginal yeast infections.

Avoid perfumed bath additives, as well as powders in the vaginal area. Douching is never a good idea since it washes away the natural protective mucus of the vagina and leaves women susceptible to vaginal infections.


Vaginal Yeast Infections FAQ. NWHIC.

Continue Reading