Many women will experience some type of vaginal infection in their life. You feel an irritation, an itching, and you’re tempted to squirm and scratch until you’ve relieved the itch. While the feeling certainly isn’t comfortable, it’s probably not the end of the world. More likely than not, it’s a yeast infection. It’s estimated that 75% of all women will have at least one yeast infection in their lifetime. The vagina typically contains a healthy amount of both bacteria and yeast. The estrogen hormone encourages the growth of a bacteria called lactobacilli which helps kill harmful organisms. However, when the balance of the bacteria and yeast falls out of whack, it could cause a growth of the fungus candida. This fungus is what causes yeast infections.
What Causes a Yeast Infection?
There are a few different reasons you might be experiencing a yeast infection. Changes to your hormones that occur during pregnancy, breast-feeding, and menopause can cause an imbalance to the flora of your vagina. Certain antibiotics can kill off many of the bacteria naturally present in your vagina, thus throwing off the balance.
Diabetes, if not properly monitored, can cause an increase in the sugar production of the mucus membranes in your vagina, creating a favorable environment for yeast. And while yeast infections are not considered a sexually transmitted disease, they can still be passed from person to person through sexual contact.
Symptoms of a Yeast Infection
While itchiness and general discomfort are the main symptoms that you’ll experience with a yeast infection, there are other potential side effects that come along with a yeast infection:
- Pain/burning when urinating
- Pain during intercourse
- Burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina and vulva
- A thick, white discharge, similar to cottage cheese in consistency
Many of the symptoms associated with a yeast infection overlap with other more serious infections and conditions. That is why it’s important to consult with a doctor for a professional diagnosis.
Treating a Yeast Infection
Yeast infections are relatively simple to treat and can typically be handled with over-the-counter treatments. Antifungal creams, ointments, and suppositories are common treatments. These can take anywhere from one day to a week. A doctor can prescribe a single dose pill to take care of the infection.
It is important to know that pregnant women can not take a single-dose pill containing fluconazole but creams and suppositories are safe to use. Some yeast infection creams and ointments can weaken condoms making it easier to become pregnant or contract a STD.
Yeast Infection Prevention
While some infections can’t be prevented, there are a few ways of ensuring yeast infections stay at bay. Breathable materials for your undergarments such as cotton doesn’t hold onto heat or moisture to keep you dry and prevent fungus from growing. Keeping your clothing loose can also help prevent high body temperatures which can encourage fungal growth.
Make sure you’re changing out of wet clothes like sweaty gym attire or bathing suits quickly after using them. Moist environments are perfect for encouraging the growth of bacteria and fungus.
It also helps to wipe from front to back when using the restroom. This prevents the spread of bacteria from your rear to your vagina.
Having proper vaginal health requires attention and a favorable environment. Treat your vagina with care to prevent things like yeast infections from rearing their ugly heads.
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