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What is Vaginal Yeast Infection?

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Vaginal Yeast Infection

A vaginal yeast infection refers to a type of vaginitis — the inflammation of the vagina. Vaginitis is characterized by symptoms such as irritation and itchiness of the vagina and vaginal discharge.

A vaginal yeast infection involves the vagina and the tissues opening it, i.e. the vulva.

Also known as vaginal candidiasis, vaginal yeast infection is very common in women. Studies show that out of 4 women, 3 women are most likely going to experience the condition at some point in their lives. Most women experience it two or more times in their lifetime.

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Contrary to what some may believe, a yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted infection. However, the fungus causing it can be transmitted via oral contact. Simple treatment measures are often sufficient to treat symptoms, however, recurring symptoms (4 or more times per year), may require a long-course therapy.

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Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of vaginal yeast infection can range from mild to moderate:

  • Irritation and itching of the vagina and the vulva
  • Swelling and redness of the vulva
  • Vaginal pain
  • A burning sensation, particularly while urination or during sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal discharge: This is often a thick and white odorless discharge

Complicated vaginal yeast infection

The following may indicate that you have complicated vaginal yeast infection:

  • Severe signs and symptoms: extensive swelling, redness and itching that may result in tears, fissures of sores
  • Recurrent yeast infection
  • You are pregnant
  • The infection is caused by a different type of candida (other than candida albicans)
  • You are suffering from uncontrolled diabetes
  • Your immune system is suppressed from usage of certain medication, such as for HIV infection

 

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When to seek medical help

Seek immediate help if:

  • You are experiencing symptoms for the first time
  • Self-treatment and OTC antifungals are ineffective
  • You are suffering from symptoms other than the ones mentioned above
  • You suspect you may have some other infection

Causes

A vaginal yeast infection is caused by candida, a fungus that is normally present in the vagina. Your vagina consists of a balance of both bacteria and yeast. Lactobacillus is a bacterium that increases the acidity of the vaginal environment to discourage overgrowth of yeast. The disruption of this balance can result in yeast overgrowth. (For more information of pH balance of the vagina, see: https://www.doctortipster.com/2370-ideal-vaginal-ph.html.

Risk factors

The following are factors that may increase your risk of having a vaginal yeast infection:

  • Increased estrogen levels: Yeast infections are more pronounced in women with high estrogen levels. Some likely targets in this case include pregnant women and women taking high-dose estrogen birth control pills. Women undergoing estrogen hormone therapy may also be affected
  • Use of antibiotics: Women who take antibiotics are commonly affected because broad-spectrum antibiotics also kill the healthy bacteria present in the vagina that combat the overgrowth of yeast
  • Poorly controlled diabetes: Women with diabetes and uncontrolled blood glucose levels have a greater risk of developing this infection that those women who control their blood glucose levels
  • Impaired immune system function: HIV infection or corticosteroid therapy can lower down immunity thus making a woman more susceptible to vaginal yeast infection
  • Sexual intercourse: Although, yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted disease, candida can be transmitted to the partner via sexual contact

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Treatment

Prevention should be your first line of treatment:

  • Wear breathable, cotton underwear and lightweight, loose-fitting skirts and pants
  • Avoid douching
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting underwear
  • Avoid staying in wet clothes for too long, change immediately after swimming
  • Avoid hot baths and hot tubs as much as possible

Medical treatment

Treatment for yeast infection depends on whether you have uncomplicated or complicated yeast infection.

An uncomplicated yeast infection features mild and infrequent symptoms, thus the following treatments may be recommended:

  • Short course vaginal therapy
  • Single dose oral medication

Make sure you have a follow-up appointment with your doctor once treatment is complete and your symptoms have subsided. You should also revisit your doctor if symptoms return within two months after treatment. (For more information, please read: https://www.doctortipster.com/242-candidiasis-symptoms-treatment-and-ways-to-prevent-it.html )

For complicated yeast infection, the following treatments may be recommended:

  • Long-course vaginal therapy
  • Multidose oral medication
  • A maintenance plan to manage recurrence of the yeast infection

Usually your sexual partner may not have to be treated for yeast infection. In case, you have been having recurrent symptoms, your doctor may recommend treatment for your partner as well.

References

 

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