Yeast infections are an uncomfortably common problem for women, affecting three out of every four women. Most women experience the itching and discharge of a yeast infection at least twice in their lifetimes for reasons that are likely beyond their control. Read on for the low-down on this common problem down-there.
What causes yeast infections?
In your vagina, bacteria and fungi live naturally. Most of the time, they stay in balance and cause no problems at all. But sometimes, there are too many fungi or too few bacteria, which can cause you to develop a yeast infection.
Many factors can cause an imbalance of bacteria and fungi in your vagina, such as:
- Antibiotic use
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Birth control pills
- A weakened immune system
What are the symptoms of yeast infections?
Yeast infections are uncomfortable and can put a cramp in your lifestyle. The symptoms of yeast infections may include:
- Itching and irritation around your vagina and vulva
- A burning feeling during sex or when you use the restroom
- Redness or swelling in your vagina and vulva
- Pain or soreness in your vagina
- Lots of watery discharge or thick, white discharge that looks like cottage cheese
How are yeast infections diagnosed?
To diagnose a yeast infection, your gynecologist will ask you a few questions and perform a pelvic exam. Your doctor may take a sample of your vaginal discharge with a swab to test in the lab. These lab tests can identify what specific type of fungus is causing your yeast infection. Determining the type of fungus can help you get more effective treatment.
What is the treatment for yeast infections?
Luckily, most yeast infections are easily treatable. You may only need to take one pill to get rid of the infection. You may also use an over-the-counter or prescription medication, such as an antifungal cream, tablets or suppositories.
We recommend getting a diagnosis of a yeast infection from your physician before buying the over-the-counter products. Yeast infection symptoms can be similar to bacterial vaginosis symptoms. Using an antifungal product when you have bacterial vaginosis, may make your infection worse.
More severe yeast infections or recurrent yeast infections may require more pills or longer treatment with antifungal creams. Your doctor can help you determine what treatment is right for you.
How can I prevent yeast infections?
If you have recurrent yeast infections, you may be able to prevent them by using condoms. You may keep getting a yeast infection from your partner or semen may be throwing off the balance of your vagina.
You can also protect your vaginal health by wearing loose, cotton underwear, avoiding panty hose and staying out of very hot baths or hot tubs. You should also only use antibiotics when necessary. Antibiotics can kill the bacteria in your vagina that you need to maintain a healthy balance.