A healthy vagina contains both bacterial and yeast cells. However, when the balance of these two compounds shifts, it can potentially cause an infection. Although embarrassing, a vaginal yeast infection is incredibly common. It is so common that nearly three-quarters of all women will experience one at some point in their lives.
Yeast infections outside the vagina are fairly common, as such infections usually develop in moist conditions such as the mouth and throat (known as oral thrush), armpits and the navel. Yeast infections around the genitalia aren’t just for women as men can also develop them. Their risk is higher in uncircumcised and diabetic individuals. Babies can also develop yeast infections due to unhygienic, moist and dirty diaper areas. As vaginal yeast infections are so common, it’s important that women stay informed. They need to understand what can cause an infection, the symptoms as well as how to prevent and treat it.
Causes of a yeast infection
The main reason as to why you may develop a yeast infection is as a result of an imbalance with the yeast in your body which soon leads to an infection. There are several factors that can increase your risk of getting a yeast infection.
Taking antibiotics can increase your risk of developing an infection. Antibiotics decrease the amount of good bacteria that lives in the vagina, thereby allowing for yeast to breed.
In the case that you’re pregnant, or using hormonal birth control, you’re increasing your odds of developing an infection as hormonal changes may upset the balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina.
High blood sugar
Yeast benefits well from a sugar boost so you’re most likely to develop an infection if you’re dealing with high blood sugar as excess sugar can boost growth.
Poor feminine hygiene
As yeast breeds in moist environments, it’s paramount that you practice good feminine hygiene by regularly changing your pads and tampons – at least once every three hours.
High sex life
Although yeast infections aren’t seen as sexually transmitted diseases, a high sex life can alter the pH of the vagina and this then increases the chances of a yeast infection developing. Thus, proper hygiene is important in regards to your sex life.
Tight underwear, made from material other than cotton, can create a warm, moist environment which is the perfect setting for a yeast infection to develop.
Feminine hygiene products
Be it scented sprays or douching – your vagina doesn’t need them. It’s the one part of the body that can clean itself thus there’s no need to be spending your money on all of these products. The use of these products will just increase your risk of developing a yeast infection by disrupting the pH balance in your vagina.
Common symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include:
- Severe and uncomfortable vaginal itching
- Swelling, irritated skin and redness around the vaginal opening
- A white, thick (or clumpy) vaginal discharge
- Pain and burning during both sex and urination
- Slight vaginal bleeding
- Unusual odor
Although it’s important to look out for symptoms, vaginal yeast infection symptoms are often mistaken for other health issues such as STDs or an allergic reaction to a product or soap so it’s important to consult your doctor when your symptoms first emerge. Your doctor will either perform a pelvic exam or run blood or culture tests to determine whether you have a yeast infection.
Prevention and treatment
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, the treatment of a yeast infection varies from person to person.
Treatments can include anti-fungal creams and ointments. In any case, you can lower your chances of developing a yeast infection through a few lifestyle changes. Practicing good hygiene by keeping your skin clean and dry can help to prevent an infection from forming. Also, when choosing clothes- ensure that they’re clean and made from breathable material.
With regards to your sex life – washing the genital area as well as urinating after sexual intercourse can also help protect against an infection. Enjoying a diet rich in probiotic foods can help both boost your immune system and fight against yeast infections. Another aspect of your diet that should be considered is the amount of sugar you consume. High levels of sugar can promote yeast infection and control your blood sugar levels by avoiding processed foods and refined grains. Click here to find out what Harvard Health has to say about yeast infections.
Want to find out more about reproductive health and how to ensure it? Click here to discover everything you need to know about STDs.