Woman discussing symptoms with care provider via a tablet device

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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.

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 and treat this itchy and uncomfortable condition.

What is a yeast infection?

A vaginal yeast infection, or “vulvovaginal candidiasis,” is a fungal infection in a woman’s vagina and tissues of 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 three out of every four women sometime in their lifetime. 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
  • a natural reaction to another person's body chemistry
  • certain drugs, such as antibiotics and cortisone
  • diabetes
  • ·normal changes in hormone levels common during your menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

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, there are over-the-counter medications you can try. If these don’t relieve your symptoms, contact your doctor. We will often prescribe a one-dose pill (Diflucan or Fluconazole) or other longer-term treatment options.

It also 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.

While a yeast infection can be disruptive to your daily routine, it is a condition that can be treated quickly by a provider with an online visit usually in less than an hour.

Some ways to help prevent a yeast infection include:

  • Avoid douches, vaginal deodorant lotion/sprays, and soaps with added scents or colors.
  • Dry off and change into dry clothes as soon as possible after a swim or work out.
  • Include probiotic foods into your diet to help boost the good bacterial to keep yeast in balance. An example would be: plain Greek yogurt.
  • Limit how much sugary or processed foods you eat.
  • If you are susceptible to getting a yeast infection after intercourse, a dose of Diflucan before intercourse is sometimes 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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