Vaginal yeast infections are one of the commonest infections of the vulvovaginal region in women. As many as 75% of women will suffer a yeast infection once in their lifetime. It is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans.
Women who suffer from this infection present with curdy white discharge and intense itching in the vulval region. The vagina is lined by healthy bacteria which are called lactobacillus, the growth of these bacteria is facilitated by the hormone estrogen. Lactobacilli keep the pH of the vagina acidic and prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria and fungus. Sometimes this delicate balance is disturbed by some predisposing factors.
Causes of Vaginal Yeast infections
There are many reasons you could get a yeast infection, including:
- Hormonal changes of pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause.
- Diabetes especially if not well-controlled leads to increased glucose in the cells of the lining of the vagina which as food for the yeast to grow.
- Sometimes yeast infections occur after an antibiotic course. Antibiotics kill the good bacteria, lactobacillus as well.
- People who use vaginal washes and sprays may also lead to a change in vaginal pH, triggering vaginal infection.
- Though a yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted infection, it can be passed from person to person through sexual contact.
Treatments for Vaginal Yeast Infections
Antifungal medications are the mainstay of treatment. Antifungal vaginal suppositories, creams, ointments, and sometimes oral antifungals are the best way to treat these infections. One should consult a gynaecologist for confirmation of diagnosis and to start the right treatment at the right time.
If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, you may get yeast infections over and over again. It’s a condition called recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC). If you get yeast infections at least four times a year, your doctor may recommend that you take a weekly antifungal pill for 6 months to fight them.
Probiotic intake can help slow the growth of yeast in the vagina, thus lowering the risk of recurrent infection. Controlling sugar levels in the case of diabetics and losing weight if obese can also help keep these infections at bay. Avoiding using hygiene products like douches and wearing cotton breathable undergarments and trousers etc can help in preventing these infections.