Doctor shares treatment for vaginal yeast infection over a virtual visit on a tablet

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Vaginal yeast infections: Understanding the symptoms and treatments

  • Yeast is a common fungus found in your body. Too much can turn into a yeast infection.
  • 3 out of 4 women will have a yeast infection in their lifetime.
  • A yeast infection can be can be treated quickly by a provider with an online visit.

If you’re a woman, there’s a high likelihood that you’ve had at least one vaginal yeast infection. Here’s my advice on how you can recognize the symptoms and causes, treat this itchy and uncomfortable condition, and tips to prevent one from happening to you.

What is a yeast infection?

A vaginal yeast infection, or “vulvovaginal candidiasis,” is a fungal infection in the vagina and tissues of the vulva (vaginal entrance).  Yeast is a common fungus found in your body. Some yeast is normal, but too much can turn into a yeast infection. A vaginal yeast infection will affect 3 out of every 4 women sometime in her life. For some women, yeast infections are a regular occurrence.

While a vaginal yeast infection is not contagious, sexual contact can sometimes lead to developing a new yeast infection when your body chemistry reacts with your partner’s bacteria.

Causes of a yeast infection

A vaginal yeast infection occurs when your normal, healthy vaginal chemistry changes, and a yeast, known as candida, grows and spreads. This yeast imbalance can be caused by:

  • A weakened immune system: due to a medical disorder or being HIV-positive can cause yeast to grow uncontrolled.
  • Medications: certain drugs, such as antibiotics and cortisone can kill off good bacteria that lives in your vagina that help control yeast.
  • Diabetes: when diabetes is uncontrolled the increase in sugar in your mucus membranes can create a place for yeast to grow.
  • Hormones: normal changes in hormone levels common during your menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
  • Body chemistry: a natural reaction to another person's body chemistry can cause an increase in yeast.

Are yeast infections contagious?

Yes, yeast infections can be contagious through sexual activities including intercourse with an infected partner. Both men and women can pass along the infection. However, a yeast infection is not considered to be a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include:

  • a burning sensation when you urinate or during sex
  • a thick, white, odorless discharge which can vary from a watery to a cottage cheese-like consistency
  • pain, itching, swelling and redness.

Treatment for a yeast infection

If you’ve had a yeast infection before and are certain your symptoms are caused by a yeast infection, you can try an over-the-counter medicine such as an antifungal cream.

If over-the-counter or home remedies don’t relieve your symptoms within a few days, contact your doctor. We can often prescribe a one-dose pill (Diflucan or Fluconazole) or suggest other longer-term treatment options. While a yeast infection can be disruptive to your daily routine, it can be treated quickly by a provider with an online visit, usually in less than an hour.

Get quick help for your yeast infection

Home remedies for treating a vaginal yeast infection

Some people treat their vaginal yeast infection with home remedies. It’s important to note that most of these home remedies have not been proven by science to be effective. Common home remedies include:

  • An apple cider vinegar bath. Add ½ cup of apple cider vinegar to lukewarm bath water and soak for 20 minutes. The acid in the vinegar can help break down microorganisms such as yeast.
  • Boric acid or hydrogen peroxide. Boric acid has been approved by the CDC for use in addition to other medicines for treating vaginal infections. However, do not use if you are pregnant and do not apply if your skin is broken. Dilute hydrogen peroxide with water before applying to your skin.
  • Eat more garlic and foods or supplements with vitamin C.
  • Organic coconut oil or oil of oregano applied to the skin.
  • Probiotics. These “friendly” bacteria in your gut help restore a balance of yeast to bacteria in your body. To increase your probiotics you can:eat foods high in probiotics such as Greek yogurt. You can also drink kombucha or apple cider vinegar, take an oral probiotic supplement, or use a probiotic suppository.

 

Diagnosis and treatment for a recurrent vaginal yeast infection

If your yeast infection doesn’t improve or comes back again and again, your doctor may ask you to schedule an in-person visit. During the visit, he or she will ask you questions about your medical history, do a pelvic exam and do lab testing of your vaginal fluids. A more thorough exam will help identify the specific type of yeast you have to help determine the best medicines and treatment options.

It’s best to see a doctor if:

  • it’s the first time you’ve had a yeast infection
  • you’re pregnant or have diabetes
  • you have a new sexual partner (to rule out a sexually transmitted disease or STD)
  • you have had four or more yeast infections during the past year.

How to prevent a vaginal yeast infection

  • Avoid douches, vaginal deodorant lotions and sprays, and scented soaps.
  • Dry off and change into dry clothes as soon as possible after a swim or work out.
  • Limit how much sugar and processed foods you eat.
  • If you are susceptible to getting a yeast infection after intercourse, a dose of Diflucan before intercourse may be recommended.
  • If you are susceptible to getting a yeast infection after taking antibiotics, a dose of Diflucan at the start and end of antibiotic therapy can prevent a post-antibiotic yeast infection.
  • Wear cotton underwear.

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