If you’re on top of your sexual health and in charge of your sexuality, then you’ll likely notice when something seems amiss. Before you worry too much, rest assured that vaginal infections are fairly common and easy to treat — and yeast infections are among the most common!
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What Is a Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection occurs when candida, a type of yeast that exists normally in the vagina (and GI tract and mouth), is grows too much, leading to an imbalance. This is why yeast infections are called “Vulvovaginal Candidiasis” scientifically. In fact, yeast infections can occur in the tongue; although, these infections are typically known as thrush.
There are a number of reasons why yeast can get out of control, leading to an infection. These include:
- Antibiotic use.
- Hormone changes (menstruation, for example).
- Being sexually active.
- Recurring bacterial infections (more information here).
- Blood sugar issues such as diabetes.
- Intake of dairy or sugary products.
- Skin conditions.
According to Planned Parenthood, a yeast infection may be due to something else entirely. Source.
It’s not necessary to have sex to get a yeast infection, but sexual activity can certainly contribute to it. Having this type of infection doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a slut or too sexually active. Nor does it mean you’re unclean or damaged. Yeast infections are common. Up to 75% of women will experience them over the course of their lifetime, says the CDC.
Symptoms of Yeast Infections
The CDC lists a number of symptoms of yeast infections. Itching and burning sensations are common, as is vaginal discharge with a texture similar to cottage cheese. Men can also get yeast infections — so it’s important not to have sex while you have symptoms or are treating a yeast infection — and their symptoms include any itchy rash.Men may also experience symptoms such as discharge under the foreskin, unpleasant odor and difficult moving the foreskin. This is one reason why a man might consider circumcision. Pros and cons of that here.
Because itching and burning in the genital area is a common sign of many STIs (more STI symptoms and information here), you’ll want to head to your sexual health or normal doctor for testing. A doctor will diagnose a yeast infection by examining a sample of secretions under the microscope. If there’s an excess of candida, you’ll get a positive diagnosis.
You’ll also find an at-home test that you can purchase at pharmacies from the Monistat brand. The Vaginal Health Test looks for abnormal pH, which can be an indicator of a bacterial infection or another STI. You can use the test to determine whether you should see a doctor or whether you can treat a yeast infection at home.
How to Treat Yeast Infections
A yeast infection can easily be included with a bacterial infection, but yeast is actually a fungal infection, so the treatment differs. One common treatment option for both BV and yeast infection is boric acid, which can be administered as a vaginal wash or taken in vaginal capsule form, which you insert daily until your infection subsists. When used as a suppository for 7 to 10 days, 92% of participants in one study experience relief from yeast infections. Source.
There are also a number of commercially-available treatment options. If you’re familiar with yeast infections or can’t afford going to the doctor, you can stop by your local drug store to pick up a cream or suppository containing an active ingredient in the “azole” family. Miconazole, which is what is in Monistat and store brand yeast infection cures. If these products don’t help your yeast infection, you can try a product containing Clotrimazole or Tioconazole, instead.
Regardless of the active ingredient, most of these products take up to a week to work correctly. During this time, you could spread a yeast infection to your partner, so abstaining from sex is a good idea. If you cannot abstain, we absolutely recommend using condoms (guide here); however, this might not be enough to prevent the spread of yeast infection.
When over-the-counter treatments fail to work, you may need a prescription from your doctor to treat a yeast infection. Diflucan and Nizoral which are both taken orally, and Nystatin is another topical remedy that requires a prescription.
Your local pharmacy or vitamin store may carry homeopathic medications that don’t have the same side effects as prescription and over-the-counter medications. These options include good candida and other ingredients.
If you’re treating a yeast infection, your partner(s) may also be infected. He can use the same over-the-counter products to treat an infection. If your yeast infections go untreated, you can pass them back and forth between you, causing unnecessary discomfort. That’s why it’s so important to treat a yeast infection as soon as you notice symptoms.
Home Remedies for Yeast Infections
You may know someone who has a “sure-fire” method to fight yeast infections without going to the doctor. These steps may help your infections, may do nothing at all or may even irritate your vagina and vulva further. Therefore, you should proceed with caution before you try any of these remedies.
Eating yogurt, especially that containing probiotics, may help with yeast infections. However, studies show that solely using yeast for treatment is “inconsistent.” Source. Some people do swear by directly inserting plain yogurt vaginally as a method to beat yeast infections.
Prevention Magazine, among other sources, recommends tea tree oil as a treatment. This natural antiseptic can be used for a variety of reasons. Adding a few drops to your bath or to a tampon that you leave inserted overnight may be effective at treating a yeast infection. If any irritation occurs, remove the tampon immediately.
Consider garlic, a natural antifungal and antiseptic. Although it won’t help treat yeast infections when eaten or taken orally, inserting a garlic clove wrapped in gauze overnight may help this type of infection. However, there is little research done on this method. Source.
Preventing a Yeast Infection
Remaining healthy in general can help to prevent a yeast infection. This means a balanced diet and getting enough sleep. Eating yogurt, which contains helpful bacteria such as Lactobacillus, may also contribute to good health.
Although you should take antibiotics any time your doctor prescribes them — and make sure to take the full round — it’s possible that antibiotics can knock out the good bacteria naturally present in your system that help to fight off things such as a yeast infection. Consider discussing alternatives with your doctor.
You’ll also want to stay away from douching, which is generally unhealthy and can contribute both to bacterial infections as well as yeast infections. Source. Additionally, avoid scented bath products and soaps, which can irritate the vagina and vulva and potentially contribute to overgrowth of the yeast candida.
While you can’t avoid natural hormone changes, you may want to talk to your doctor about a birth control pill that contains only progestin because combination pills, which contain estrogen, may contribute to yeast infections. If you know that you’re prone to this type of infection, alternative birth control methods are one more way to keep yeast in check. More birth control options in this post.
Finally, allow your vagina plenty of fresh air. Yeast thrives in moist conditions, so showering to remove sweat after exercising and changing clothes in addition to general hygiene are important prevention steps. Wearing cotton panties, which allow your vulva to breathe, is also beneficial. Sleeping naked make help, too, and it has plenty of other benefits.
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