Seven Things You Should Know About Yeast Infections
You have probably heard about vaginal yeast infection, and you may have experienced one or more yeast infections in your lifetime. Although yeast infections are no fun, they are common among women. A vaginal yeast infection is a common type of vaginitis – a condition which causes discharge, burning, irritation, and itchiness in the vagina and vulva (tissue at vaginal opening). Vaginal yeast infections are also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis or vaginal candidiasis, named after candida albicans, the pathogen that causes yeast infections. Here are seven things you might not know about vaginal yeast infections.
1. Yeast Infections are more common than you think
Vaginal yeast infections occur in about one million women in the United States every year. This kind of infection is the second most common type of vaginitis. It is estimated that at least 75% of women (3 out of 4 women) will get a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime. Many women experience two or more episodes of yeast infections. The yeast infection can happen at any time with no warning; however, it is typically rare before puberty and after menopause.
2. It's true that yeast infections can sometimes resolve on their own
Although vaginal yeast infections are very common and can occur at any time, they can also sometimes resolve on their own as quickly and as easily as they started, especially when it is a mild infection. A mild yeast infection can clear up in as little as three days even without treatment, while a moderate and severe infection can take up to one to two weeks to clear. It is generally advised to treat any type of vaginal yeast infection to avoid a recurrence; however, if you have mild symptoms and are not pregnant, you can wait to see if it clears up on its own before using an antifungal medication. If you are unsure of the cause of your symptoms or are pregnant, you should see a doctor to properly diagnose your symptoms before treatment. Vaginal yeast infections are treated with anti-fungal vaginal creams, vaginal suppositories, or oral medication.
3. It is caused by an overgrowth of natural vaginal yeast
The vagina contains a healthy mix of bacteria and yeast. The most common bacterial, lactobacillus acidophilus, keeps things in balance. Occasionally, an imbalance occurs between the yeast and bacteria, causing an overgrowth of the fungus candida albicans, which is responsible for most vaginal yeast infections. Overgrowth of yeast cells can result from:
- hormonal changes (which can occur during pregnancy)
- use of oral contraceptives or antibiotics
- hormone therapy (which increases estrogen levels)
- a weak immune system
- normal changes in your menstrual cycle
- a reaction to another person’s genital chemistry
- uncontrolled diabetes.
Symptoms of vaginal yeast infection can be mild to moderate and can include vaginal itching, irritation, burning sensation, soreness, pain, discharge, rash, redness, swelling, and thick, white, odor-free vaginal discharge with a cottage cheese appearance.
4. While yeast infections are not a sexually transmitted infection they can be sexually contagious
Most people want to know if yeast is a sexual transmitted infection (STI), especially since the symptoms of a yeast infection can mimic certain STIs. Yeast is not considered an STI since you can get yeast without ever having sex. However, you can get a yeast infection from your partner through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. People can also get yeast on their mouth, tongue, and throat, and this is typically known as thrush. Yeast infection from sex occurs when the natural genital yeast and bacteria of sexual partners mix. One person could have a reaction to the other person’s natural body pathogens, leading to an overgrowth in their own yeast cells. Condoms can reduce the risk of passing on a yeast infection during sex.
5. Men can also get yeast infections
Men can also get yeast infections. Even though this is rare, when it does happen, it can appear as redness and irritation on the penis or scrotum. If you have yeast and have unprotected sex with a man, his chances of getting a yeast infection are low. Just about 15% of men exposed to yeast infection will get an itchy rash on the penis with the risk being highest in uncircumcised men or men with diabetes. If your sexual partner is a woman, they might have a yeast infection and should be tested and treated appropriately. If you have vaginal yeast infection, it is best to wait until all your symptoms have resolved before having any kind of sex.
6.Douching and vaginal sprays can cause yeast infection
Douching is the method of cleaning or washing the vagina with fluids like water and chemicals. About 20% of women aged 15-44 douche. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, douching is linked to vaginal irritation, vaginal dryness, infertility, STDs, and vaginal infections like yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, and pelvic inflammatory diseases. Women who douche are five times more likely to have a vaginal infection than women who do not douche. Vaginal sprays and other vaginal products, which are meant to be healthy, can sometimes contain harmful chemicals that cause yeast infection and other types of vaginitis. Avoid douching and using sprays on your vagina to reduce the risk of yeast infections.
7. Preventative care can reduce the risk of infection
Although you might not be able to prevent all yeast infections, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of getting a yeast infection. Wear breathable underwear; avoid douching; limit hot tubs/baths; change pads and tampons frequently when on your period; keep things loose around your pants; always wipe front to back after using the bathroom; take antibiotics only when necessary; manage your diabetes; and, eat yogurt with active culture to help maintain a natural balance of good bacteria and yeast in your body.
To wrap things up, while yeast infections are very common there are still a lot of misconceptions about them. Having a good understanding of how your body works, what can cause yeast infections, and what preventative care you can take are the first steps in shutting these misconceptions down. Did you know all seven of these things about yeast infections? Is there something I left out? Let me know in the comments below.