Aside from the discomfort of persistent itching, you can’t assume that a yeast infection will simply go away. “Untreated yeast infections can lead to long-term vaginal irritation and discomfort,” says Dr. Quimper. A yeast infection is likely not dangerous, she says, but that “yeast infection” might also be something else, like a sexually transmitted infection, that could cause bigger problems. Here are healthy secrets your vagina wants to tell you.
For most girls, there's no way to prevent yeast infections. Girls may feel more comfortable and have less irritation if they wear breathable cotton underwear and loose clothes and avoid vaginal sprays and douches. But there's no scientific proof that doing these things prevents yeast infections. If your daughter has diabetes, keeping her blood sugar levels under control will help her avoid getting yeast infections.
Antibiotics are one of the most common culprits in causing yeast infections, because they destroy vaginal bacteria and thereby disrupt the balance of power among the vaginal microorganisms. This balance is also affected by hormone levels, so women are more prone to yeast infections if they’re using hormonal contraceptives, during pregnancy, or just prior to menstruation. Yeast infections are also more common in women with compromised immune systems due to illnesses like diabetes, AIDS, or cancer. In fact, anything that weakens your immune system—stress, lack of sleep, consumption of alcohol, and even refined sugar—can lead to an overgrowth of yeast.
A diet that supports the immune system and is not high in simple carbohydrates contributes to a healthy balance of the oral and intestinal flora. While yeast infections are associated with diabetes, the level of blood sugar control may not affect the risk. Wearing cotton underwear may help to reduce the risk of developing skin and vaginal yeast infections, along with not wearing wet clothes for long periods of time.
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Oral hygiene can help prevent oral candidiasis when people have a weakened immune system. For people undergoing cancer treatment, chlorhexidine mouthwash can prevent or reduce thrush. People who use inhaled corticosteroids can reduce the risk of developing oral candidiasis by rinsing the mouth with water or mouthwash after using the inhaler.
The healthy vaginal ecosystem requires just the right balance of bacteria flora. The vaginal mucosa, which protects against pathogens, is made up predominantly of healthy bacteria called lactobacillus. These bacteria make hydrogen peroxide, which keeps unhealthy bacteria from getting out of hand. This, in turn, keeps the amount of yeast at a normal level. Too much douching can disrupt the bacterial balance and lead to infection.
Candidiasis is an infection caused by a yeast (a type of fungus) called Candida. Candida normally lives inside the body (in places such as the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina) and on skin without causing any problems. Sometimes Candida can multiply and cause an infection if the environment inside the vagina changes in a way that encourages its growth. Candidiasis in the vagina is commonly called a “vaginal yeast infection.” Other names for this infection are “vaginal candidiasis,” “vulvovaginal candidiasis,” or “candidal vaginitis.”
But yeast in the vagina can sometimes "overgrow" and lead to symptoms of a yeast infection. Stress, pregnancy, and illnesses that affect the immune system may allow yeast to multiply. So can certain medicines, including some birth control pills and steroids. If you're taking antibiotics, such as for strep throat, the antibiotics can kill the "good" bacteria that normally keep the Candida in check. Yeast also can grow a lot if a girl's blood sugar is high. Girls who have diabetes that isn't controlled are more likely to get yeast infections.
For vaginal yeast infection in pregnancy, topical imidazole or triazole antifungals are considered the therapy of choice owing to available safety data. Systemic absorption of these topical formulations is minimal, posing little risk of transplacental transfer. In vaginal yeast infection in pregnancy, treatment with topical azole antifungals is recommended for 7 days instead of a shorter duration.
A yeast infection results from an overgrowth of yeast (a type of fungus) anywhere in the body. Candidiasis is by far the most common type of yeast infection. There are more than 20 species of Candida, the most common being Candida albicans. These fungi live on all surfaces of our bodies. Under certain conditions, they can become so numerous they cause infections, particularly in warm and moist areas. Examples of such infections are vaginal yeast infections, thrush (infection of tissues of the oral cavity), skin, including diaper rash, beneath large breasts, and nailbed infections.
Try it: If you’re having recurrent yeast infections and you’re on hormonal birth control, talk to your doctor. They “may try to change the type of birth control to see if that helps,” Dr. Wider says. If you need to change your hormonal birth control for whatever reason and you’re prone to yeast infections, your doctor may recommend a preventative round of fluconazole just to be safe, Dr. Ross says.
Diaper rashes decrease to the extent that diapered skin can have an environment closer to that of undiapered skin. The less time that infants wear diapers, the less the chance that they develop a diaper rash. However, the need to wear diapers must also be considered. Disposable diapers are associated with fewer cases of yeast diaper rash than are cloth diapers. Disposable diapers have absorbent gelling materials that draw moisture away from delicate skin surfaces. Infants who wear breathable disposable diapers developed significantly fewer diaper rashes of any type than infants who wore standard, non-breathable disposable diapers in a series of clinical trials.
Vaginal yeast infections are typically treated with topical antifungal agents. A one-time dose of fluconazole is 90% effective in treating a vaginal yeast infection. For severe nonrecurring cases, several doses of fluconazole is recommended. Local treatment may include vaginal suppositories or medicated douches. Other types of yeast infections require different dosing. Gentian violet can be used for thrush in breastfeeding babies. C. albicans can develop resistance to fluconazole, this being more of an issue in those with HIV/AIDS who are often treated with multiple courses of fluconazole for recurrent oral infections.
Since thrush is easily passed back and forth, it’s best if both you and your baby get treated. For your baby, your pediatrician may prescribe an antifungal medication (such as Nystatin), which is applied topically to the insides of the mouth and tongue multiple times a day for 10 days. Be sure to get it on all the white patches in your baby's mouth if that's the remedy your doctor has given you. In a tough case, fluconazole (brand name Diflucan), an oral medication given by dropper, may be prescribed.
Maintenance plan. For recurrent yeast infections, your doctor might recommend a medication routine to prevent yeast overgrowth and future infections. Maintenance therapy starts after a yeast infection is cleared with treatment. You may need a longer treatment of up to 14 days to clear the yeast infection before beginning maintenance therapy. Therapies may include a regimen of oral fluconazole tablets once a week for six months. Some doctors prescribe clotrimazole as a vaginal suppository used once a week instead of an oral medication.
A 2005 publication noted that "a large pseudoscientific cult" has developed around the topic of Candida, with claims up to one in three people are affected by yeast-related illness, particularly a condition called "Candidiasis hypersensitivity". Some practitioners of alternative medicine have promoted these purported conditions and sold dietary supplements as supposed cures; a number of them have been prosecuted. In 1990, alternative health vendor Nature's Way signed an FTC consent agreement not to misrepresent in advertising any self-diagnostic test concerning yeast conditions or to make any unsubstantiated representation concerning any food or supplement's ability to control yeast conditions, with a fine of $30,000 payable to the National Institutes of Health for research in genuine candidiasis.
Three out of four women will experience at least one yeast infection in their lifetimes. If you’ve had one, you know the signs: severe vaginal itching and irritation accompanied by a thick, white discharge. Sometimes you might feel a burning sensation during urination or sex. Yeast infections certainly aren’t pleasant, but under most circumstances, they’re easy to treat.