Women naturally have some yeast cells that live on their skin, in their gut, and in their vagina. When there is a build-up of yeast in the vagina, a thick, white discharge may appear along with symptoms such as vaginal itching, burning, or redness. This is called a yeast infection, or vaginal candidiasis.
Yeast may be produced in excess for multiple reasons. Yeast grows best in dark and moist areas, meaning that wearing tight or wet clothes as well as nylon underwear are perfect opportunities for growth. Antibiotic use may also harbor excess growth of yeast as the normal bacteria in vagina is changed. Yeast infections can also result from hormonal changes in pregnancy as well as use of birth control pills. Though not common, it is possible for yeast infections to be passed between sexual partners as well.
In preventing yeast infections, keep these tips in mind (Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health):
- Wear cotton underwear to prevent accumulation of moisture.
- Avoid materials like nylon or polyester when choosing pantyhose or pants.
- Promptly remove wet bathing suits.
- Avoid use of panty liners.
- Avoid use of scented soaps or powders in the vaginal area.
- Limit bubble baths.
- Do not douche, as it removes healthy bacteria that protects the vagina from excess yeast.
Yeast infections can be managed using over-the-counter cream, suppositories, or tablets for 1 to 7 seven days depending on the medication purchased. Mild infections can usually be treated with one-day treatments while more symptomatic infections may require 3 to 7 days of treatment. Being seen by a health care provider is not necessary in most cases, but warranted in some situations which are listed below (Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health):
- Have symptoms of a yeast infection for the first time.
- Are not sure if your symptoms are due to a yeast infection or other infection.
- Have severe pain, swelling, or redness.
- Did not have relief of symptoms with over-the-counter medications.
- Have symptoms after treating another yeast infection less than 2 months ago.
- Have had 3 or more yeast infections in the past year.
- Are pregnant.
- Have diabetes, HIV, or another immunosuppressive condition.
Though yeast infections are not something to be greatly concerned about, taking the appropriate steps to prevent these infections will save you from the discomfort associated with them. If you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to call your local health care provider.
This article reviewed by Dr. Jim Liu, MD and Ms. Deb Dooley, APRN.
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