Fact: Three out of four women will get a vaginal yeast infection in their life. That’s how common yeast infections, otherwise known as candidiasis, are. Now that we know the majority of the female population is likely to experience at least one, if not multiple yeast infections, let’s get down to business: What exactly is a vaginal yeast infection, and more importantly, how can you treat and avoid them in the future? That’s what we’re going to discuss in this article - the causes (those pesky hormones are at it again!), the symptoms (warning: you may never look at cottage cheese the same way), and the treatments (pro tip: avoid at-home remedies no matter how badly you don’t want to see your doctor). Keep reading and discover all there is to know about one of the most common types of vaginal infections.
Fact: Yeast infections are most often caused by an overgrowth of candida albicans AKA Bacteria.
Most of us know that a healthy vagina is made up of bacteria and yeast cells. However, this balance of bacteria and yeast is a delicate one, and when something disrupts it, the yeast cells can multiply. The result? An overgrowth of yeast, which leads to an infection. Candida albicans is the specific strain of yeast that is most commonly responsible for yeast infections. Thankfully, most of the time, infections caused by candida albicans are easily treatable. In the event that you have a yeast infection caused by a different type of yeast, such as the less common candida glabrata, your doctor will likely prescribe a longer-term treatment (more on this below). What can cause an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina? Hormones play a major role. For example, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, and birth control pills can all alter your hormone levels, which can upset the balance of bacteria and yeast in your vagina. In addition, antibiotics, diabetes, a weakened immune system, stress, lack of sleep, or even sex can lead to an overgrowth of yeast. (Given all these causes, you’re probably starting to get why so many women have them!)
Fact: Cottage cheese-like discharge can be a sign of a yeast infection
First off, how do you know you have a yeast infection? Unlike certain STIs you may never know you have because of their asymptomatic nature, you’re probably going to know quite quickly that something is wrong if you have a yeast infection. The telltale signs include vaginal itching, swelling, soreness, or redness, pain during sex, burning during urination, a rash, and best of all, white, clumpy discharge that looks a whole lot like you dropped some cottage cheese in your underwear… hey, we warned you. (Note: The discharge isn’t always thick, it can sometimes be watery, but regardless, it’s going to look out of the ordinary for your body.) If you notice that your vulva or vagina is extremely swollen or itchy, to that point that it has caused sores or tears in your vaginal tissue, it’s likely a more serious yeast infection.
Fact: Yeast infections are contagious and can be spread through sex
It’s true that yeast infections are not considered to be a type of STI, but that doesn’t mean they can’t spread through sex. Yeast infections are contagious, so if you engage in oral or vaginal sex while you have one, you risk passing the infection on to your partner. (While we’re on the topic, it’s important to note that men can also get yeast infections. For example, if you have penetrative sex with a man that has a penile yeast infection, you could end up with a vaginal yeast infection, and vice versa.) Yeast infections can also be transmitted via sex toys or even kissing, if you or your partner have yeast infection of the mouth, also known as oral thrush. The bottom line: If you have a yeast infection, don’t have sex until it’s cleared up.
Fact: Yeast infections are NOT UTIs
There is a common misconception that yeast infections are UTIs, or urinary tract infections. This is false. They are two totally separate infections; however, it is possible to have both types of infection at the same time (if this has happened to you, we offer our sincere condolences). A UTI is a bacterial infection that most frequently occurs in the lower tract (the bladder and the urethra). Like yeast infections, sex can be an underlying cause of UTIs, but so too can failing to urinate regularly, which doesn’t play a role in yeast infections. The two infections also differ when it comes to symptoms. Whereas you’re almost guaranteed to experience some funky looking discharge if you have a yeast infection, a UTI doesn’t really affect your discharge. Instead, you can expect changes to your urine, such as bloody or cloudy urine, as well as pelvic or abdominal pain.
Fact: If treated, yeast infection symptoms will subside within a few days
Luckily most yeast infections, if caught early, are relatively harmless and can be cleared up within a number of days. As with almost everything health-related in life, if you notice something out of the ordinary (i.e. any of the symptoms listed above), visit your doctor ASAP. Leaving a yeast infection for too long can lead to it spreading to other parts of your body, which makes it more serious. For simple infections, your doctor will likely prescribe a topical antifungal cream, ointment, or tablet that you have to take for anywhere between one and three days. You’ll notice the symptoms subside after this period. For more complicated infections, you’re looking at a 14-day cream, ointment, or tablet treatment at best, or a long-term prescription of fluconazole (an antifungal medication) or topical antifungal cream at worst. Whatever you do - no matter how mild you think your infection is - do not try to treat it yourself at home. You will find many yeast infection home remedies on the internet, but ultimately, there isn’t near enough science to back up these claims and you don’t want to risk making things worse. Our advice? Ignore the websites telling you to stick garlic, coconut oil, yogurt, or whatever else up your vagina, and talk to your doctor.
Fact: Recurring yeast infections are common.
Unfortunately, recurring yeast infections are extremely common. In fact, once you have one, you’re more likely to get another one in future. It really doesn’t seem fair, does it? Women who are pregnant, have diabetes, or have weakened immune systems are more prone to yeast infections, but really any woman can get one. If you suffer from recurring yeast infections (i.e. more than four per year), we definitely recommend talking to your doctor about it.
Fact: Avoiding a yeast infection is easier said than done.
We wish we could tell you that eating chocolate or drinking red wine was the key to avoiding a yeast infection, but unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. There isn’t really any one thing you can do that will guarantee you don’t get a yeast infection. But there are some preventative measures you can take. Eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet, wearing cotton underwear, and replacing feminine hygiene products frequently may help you avoid infection in the future, as will avoiding the following: wearing tight-fitting underwear or pantyhose, douching, using scented bubble bath, pads, or tampons, sitting in wet clothes (think post workout) for extended periods of time, using antibiotics unnecessarily, or sitting in hot tubs or taking hot baths too often.
Also, something many of us don't think about is the products we use down there , it is so important to use clean, gentle products that will help restore your precious pH balance down South, which can be another known cause for recurring yeast infections. (Try South probiotic pH balancedintimate skin care)
Now that you’re armed with all the yeast infection knowledge you can handle, we hope you’ll be able to stay calm and get the treatment you need the next time you suspect something is up “down there.” Whatever you do, don’t panic. Albeit annoying, in most cases yeast infections are relatively harmless and if treated quickly, will be gone before you know it!
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