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Everything You Need to Know About Yeast Infections

Dec 06, 2022

Vaginal yeast infections. They're uncomfortable. They're annoying. They're painful. 

But they're also quite common and normal. Experts say that 75% of women experience one in their life, and 45% two or more. 

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What causes a yeast infection?

A type of yeast called candida, can be found throughout the body, including on the skin and in the mouth (known as oral thrush), throat, stomach, and vagina. 

When this yeast is balanced with the bacteria in the body, there are no issues. However, when there is an imbalance, the yeast multiplies, causing a fungal infection. 

Where else in the body can a yeast infection occur?

Most yeast infections are found in the vagina. But they can also form in other parts of the body that provide the right environment- a warm and moist place. 

Candida yeast can create infections in the mouth, armpit, and groin and is the main cause of diaper rash in babies. 

Certain dog and cat breeds are also prone to yeast infections on their skin, ears, and between their toes. 

What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?

If you've had a vaginal yeast infection in the past, you usually can spot the early signs of one developing. Common signs of a yeast infection include:

  • Itching and irritation in the vulva and vagina 

  • A burning sensation during sexual intercourse

  • Pain or discomfort when urinating 

  • Redness and swelling of the vulva

  • Vaginal rash

  • Odorless, white, cottage-cheese-like vaginal discharge

An infection is considered a  complicated yeast infection if you have the following:

  • Tears, cracks, or sores from extensive itching, redness, and swelling

  • Four or more vaginal yeast infections in a year

  • An infection caused by another type of fungus

  • Are pregnant

  • Uncontrolled diabetes

  • A weakened immune system

Who is at risk of developing a yeast infection? 

Certain medical conditions and lifestyle habits increase the chance of developing a yeast infection. 

  • Menstruating women

  • Sexually active women (a yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted disease)

  • Pregnancy

  • Taking certain medications, such as hormonal contraceptives and antibiotics

  • Using contraceptives, like diaphragms and intrauterine devices (IUDs)

  • HIV and other immune-suppressing diseases

  • Diabetes

  • Obesity 

  • Unmanaged stress and poor sleep hygiene 

  • A high-sugar diet 

  • Douching

  • Poor vaginal hygiene

How do you treat a yeast infection?

Vaginal yeast infections are easily treatable, though they can take a few days to clear up. Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription antifungal creams, ointments, tablets, suppositories, or oral medications are available. 

If this is your first or you are unsure if it's a yeast infection, you should see a doctor before trying any OTC methods. 

Common medications available either OTC or by prescription include:

How is a yeast infection diagnosed?

With treatments available over the counter, it is tempting to self-diagnose. However, it's important to know that some other medical conditions mimic yeast infection symptoms, including bacterial vaginosis (BV), cytolytic vaginosis (CV), gonorrhea, trichomonas (trich), and an allergic reaction (contact dermatitis). 

You should consult your doctor if:

  • You've never had a vaginal yeast infection before

  • Your current symptoms are different than previous symptoms

  • Your symptoms get worse

  • Medications used before aren't working on current symptoms 

Your healthcare provider will ask you about your medical history and current symptoms, perform a pelvic exam to look for inflammation and discharge, and take a sample of the discharge to look for candida overgrowth. 

Are yeast infections preventable?

There are some steps you can take to prevent yeast infections from occurring in the future:

  • Wear underwear made out of breathable material, like cotton or silk

  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting pants, especially for an extended period of time

  • Change out of wet clothes, like a bathing suit, as soon as possible

  • Avoid douching and using scented sprays and bath products down there

  • Limit the use of hot tubs and baths 

  • Change your tampons and pads regularly when on your period 

  • Manage diabetes

  • Manage stress and get enough sleep every night

  • Only take an antibiotic if needed, and consider taking a probiotic during and after 

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle with a nutritious diet and exercise

  • Always wipe front to back after using the bathroom 

Just remember, there's a chance you do most of these and still develop a yeast infection. Talk to your doctor if your vaginal yeast infections are reoccurring. 

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