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Understanding, Treating, & Preventing Vaginal Yeast Infections

May 3, 2022
Miranda Obryan

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Itchy, red, and irritated. Those are not words women prefer to associate with their lady parts. But the reality is that 75% of women will experience a vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime. There is a delicate balance between the bacteria and yeast in the microbiome of the vagina. When disrupted, infections can fester. In this blog, we’ll discuss:

  • What causes yeast infections?
  • How to identify and treat candida overgrowth
  • Prevention of yeast infections

What causes yeast infections?

Candida is a yeast that is naturally present inside the healthy vagina along with other microorganisms, including Lactobacillus bacteria. If the balance among these microbes gets out of whack, it can cause an overgrowth in the others. As a result, a decrease in healthy bacteria in the vagina can cause an overgrowth of candida, causing candidiasis, commonly known as a yeast infection.

Certain risk factors can contribute to candida overgrowth. Hormones and medications are a common culprit to blame for disrupting the fragile microbial environment. If you’re pregnant, on hormonal contraceptives, are taking antibiotics, or have diabetes, you could be more susceptible to yeast overgrowth. Douching can also lead to infections.

How to identify a yeast infection

Luckily, yeast infections produce pesky symptoms to alert you that your vaginal microbiome is a bit off balance. Indicators can vary from woman to woman, but generally, the common ones include:

  • External vaginal itching
  • Soreness
  • Burning
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain when urinating
  • Chunky, white vaginal discharge
  • Redness
  • Swelling

The onset of symptoms for a yeast infection can start as mildly annoying and then quickly spiral into intense discomfort within a few days. It’s important to monitor your symptoms and get treatment as early as possible to feel better fast. If you’re unfamiliar with the signs, you can check your symptoms with online tools. If you suspect a vaginal yeast infection, testing can confirm your suspicions.

Over-the-counter vaginal health screening tests may help instantly determine whether an infection is present. These tests help you decide whether to use OTC medication‒or whether a doctor appointment is warranted. These tests are generally available at most stores that sell feminine products and can be completed and read at home. Alternatively, your doctor can order tests and collect samples to send to a lab for testing to confirm the diagnosis.

Related: How Your Body’s pH Levels Can Affect Your Health

How to treat yeast infections

Treatment of yeast infections is simple with antifungal medications. If you are confident that your yeast is the problem, there are a range of over-the-counter antifungal medications available in a variety of forms. CDC treatment guidelines recommend the following OTC medications for the treatment of yeast infections:

  • Clotrimazole cream
  • Miconazole cream
  • Miconazole vaginal suppository
  • Tioconazole ointment

Each of these creams, ointments, and suppositories are available at most drug stores and must be inserted into the vagina with an applicator (similar to a tampon applicator) over a specified treatment period. Some treatments only require a single dose, while others require repetitive treatment for a full week. Be sure to read the instructions carefully and speak with your doctor if your symptoms do not improve, get worse, or reoccur within a two-month timeframe.

Avoid sexual activity while you treat your symptoms to avoid spreading the infection to your partner or reinfecting yourself. Condoms may not be as effective while using creams or ointments because these chemicals may damage the latex material.

Your doctor can also prescribe different creams or vaginal suppositories that are not available over the counter. Some women find cream or ointment treatments can be messy and inconvenient. If you prefer to take oral medication, you can schedule an appointment with your online physician to request an oral prescription such as oral fluconazole.

 

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Preventing yeast infections

Yeast infections are common, but they don’t have to be. There are preventative measures you can take to limit your chances of yeast overgrowth. One simple change is to make sure that you are regularly wearing cotton underwear. Cotton helps absorb moisture while its breathable nature keeps your groin from staying moist‒an environment prone to yeast overgrowth.

Other quick tips for preventing yeast infections include:

  • Change out of wet clothes, such as swimsuits
  • Lower your stress
  • Use unscented soap/products
  • Avoid tight clothing
  • Avoid panty-liners (or use cloth liners)

Any time you are prescribed oral antibiotics, consider requesting a pre-emptive medication if you are prone to yeast infections when your bacterial flora is wiped out by antibiotics.

Related: Top 5 Tips to Maintain Vaginal Health: Things You Were Never Told

Conclusion

A woman’s body is a miraculous work of nature. The delicate balance that works to keep her microbiome healthy can wreak havoc when things get off-kilter. Now that you’re armed with this knowledge all about yeast infections, you can use it to keep your body balanced and healthy. As always, if you’re experiencing symptoms that concern you, our online physicians at My Virtual Physician are standing by, ready to hear from you.

 

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