Yeast infections are a common problem from which many women suffer. Over 75% of women have experienced a yeast infection in their lifetime, and over half of women have experienced two or more. In fact, many women suffer from recurring yeast infections, and often times they don’t know why the infections are occurring or how to prevent them.
Here is what you need to know:
- You need a healthy amount of yeast in your vagina. Yeast naturally occurs in our body and on our skin, and we need it to help maintain healthy functioning. However, it’s important to have the right balance of yeast. Yeast infections occur when the bacteria in your vagina becomes unbalanced. Too much yeast can lead to an infection, including symptoms such as painful itching in or around the vagina and itching along the vulva. You might notice an odorous smell or thick, white discharge that is comparable to the consistency of cottage cheese.
- Talk to your doctor. Most yeast infections can be cured with over the counter medications. However, if you commonly experience yeast infections, you should talk to your doctor to try and find out why. Hormonal birth control pills have been linked to yeast infections, and antibiotics can also cause them (because the medication can kill good bacteria in the vagina that you need to maintain a healthy balance). Other causes include chemotherapy medications, medications that include cortisone, and diabetes medication. Pregnant women might also be a greater risk for yeast infection.
Once you identify the cause of your yeast infection, you might be able to reduce the risk or switch to a medication that doesn’t have such side effects. Your doctor can also give you a prescription for fluconazole (Diflucan) which can be taken right away when you feel a yeast infection coming on. Most women only need one pill to stop a yeast infection in its tracks.
- Promote a healthy balance in your vagina. If you want to reduce your risk of yeast infection, one of the best things you can do is avoid douching and other unnecessary measures which can throw your balance out of whack. You don’t need to wash yourself with harsh soaps or fragrant body washes. All you need is a little warm water in and around the labia (you never to need wash inside the vagina, it’s self-cleaning). You should also avoid tight underwear or uncomfortable and ill-fitting thongs. Keep things as cool and dry as possible, and make sure to change out of sweaty clothes or your wet swimsuit as soon as possible after leaving the gym or pool.
- Eat yogurt. Yogurt has live cultures including good bacteria that can help to promote healthy balance inside your body and your vagina. Some women even use yogurt as an at-home remedy to help decrease yeast infections by diluting yogurt with a little warm water and inserting it in their vagina.
- Try boric acid. Many women swear that boric acid is an effective and simple yeast infection remedy. Boric acid capsules are inserted into the vagina to help decrease symptoms and resolve the infection. (Discuss this option with your doctor before trying it.)
- Practice safer sex. Although yeast infections are not a sexually transmitted infection, they can be spread during sex. This means that if you have a yeast infection and have unprotected sex with your partner, he might contract it. Symptoms of yeast infection in a man are similar to that of a woman, and include itching in and around the penis tip as well as tiny red dots or white spots on the penis. Transmission isn’t common, but it’s a possibility and something to consider when weighing the risks.
- Be sure it’s a yeast infection. Sometimes the symptoms of yeast infection can be confused with STIs such as trichomoniasis or chlamydia. If you have never had a yeast infection before or if you aren’t sure whether your symptoms are that of a yeast infection, make an appointment with your ob/gyn to find out. STIs are most effectively treated when caught early, so don’t delay if you are fear that your symptoms might be something other than a yeast infection.