Microbes are there all around us and inside our system too. Even with microbes, we do not usually get infections because they are in a balanced state. Any imbalance in their quantities can lead to internal or external infections.
Yeast – Candida albicans – is a common fungus found on human skin, mouth, throat, digestive tract, and vaginal area in minute quantities. These minute quantities do not pose any problem, do not lead to an infection, or present any symptoms.
In the women’s vaginal regions there are several microbes in minute quantities – referred to as vaginal flora – which are kept in balance by the healthy body. Under certain favorable conditions, these microbes breed excessively causing infections in the urinary tract and reproductive organs.
When the yeast – Candida Albicans breeds uncontrollably, they cause vaginal infections known as Vaginal Candidiasis, Vulvovaginal Candidiasis, or Candidal Vaginitis.
- Itching in the vaginal, cervical and vulval area.
- Swelling of the private parts
- Difficulty in urination combined with burning sensation.
- Pain during intercourse.
- Soreness, redness and rashes around the vaginal area
- Abnormal discharge from vagina which can be yellowish clump or watery.
- White spots on the vaginal walls which are dry. Cracked skin around the vulva.
Overgrowth of candida causes yeast infection due to the imbalance in the human system. The common reasons are listed.
- Use of antibiotics for treatment of other infections. This can disrupt the normal microbial balance in the vaginal region.
- Pregnancy can also disrupt the microbial balance due to hormonal changes.
- Obesity can cause yeast infections. Trapped moisture and warmth in the folds of skin are ideal for microbial growth.
- Diabetic condition. People with higher glucose levels in their blood are more prone to candida attacks.
- Low Immunity levels can increase the risk of yeast infections.
- Periods. This is when there is hormonal imbalance, thereby increasing the chances of yeast infections.
- Stress. This leads to a compromise of immune system leading to yeast infections.
Diagnosis involves the external examination of the pelvic area, namely – the external vulval area, vagina, and cervix. Typical signs of swelling, rashes, white spots in the vaginal tract, and dry cracks in the vulval skin will indicate a yeast infection.
The vaginal discharge may be collected and sent for a “wet mount” or “KOH test” in conditions where there is no healing with treatment or recurrence of infections.
Duration of treatment for yeast infections varies with the severity of the symptoms presented. A combination of antifungal creams, ointments, and oral tablets is prescribed for 1-7 days for mild infections. For severe infections, a 14 days course of treatment is required. Commonly used drugs for treating yeast infections include,
Butoconazole, Teraconazole, Miconazole, Clotrimazole and Flucanozole.
Following personal hygiene, having a proper diet, and avoiding the triggers that can lead to yeast infections will go a long way in preventing recurrent infections.
- A proportionate diet with sufficient probiotics, especially lactobacillus is helpful in avoiding the incidence of yeast infections.
- Using undergarments made of cotton. Avoiding the use of nylon or silk which increases sweat and trap moisture in the genital area leading to fungal growth.
- Regular washing of undergarments.
- Avoiding the use of tight fitting clothes.
- Avoiding the use of powder sprays or perfumes in and around the genital area.
- Avoiding wearing of wet clothes for an extended duration.
- Avoiding douching which washes away the good bacteria from the vaginal region that helps in preventing yeast infections.
- Not having very hot water bathing or soaking for a long duration.
- Reducing the unnecessary use of antibiotics.
- Maintaining the blood glucose level for diabetics.
Yeast infection and Sexual Intercourse
Yeast infection is not considered an STD (sexually transmitted disease). But having a sexual relationship with a person with a yeast infection can sometimes cause the transmission through oral, vaginal, or penile routes. Usually, the transmission of bacteria during sexual intercourse can disrupt the microbial balance which can lead to the possibility of yeast infection.
Difference between Yeast Infection and BV
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is common in women caused because of disruption in vaginal bacterial flora. It can sometimes be confused with Yeast Infections, presenting the same symptoms. Yeast infections do not cause long-term problems whereas BV if untreated can cause harm. The doctor in charge can help with the incorrect diagnosis of the type of infection and take the appropriate action.
Yeast Infections during Periods
While having periods in itself is stressful and tiring, a yeast infection coming along is like a dual hit. It is common for women to experience an episode of yeast infection just before periods. Hormonal imbalance at this stage is supposedly the reason for yeast infections. While it is an annoyance, proper diagnosis and timely treatment are required.
It is imperative that the symptoms of yeast infections are identified and immediate remedial measures are taken to prevent discomfort. Knowing one’s risk factors can go a long way in the prevention of recurrent infections. Speaking to a doctor and taking medical advice is recommended if the infections last more than a couple of months or relapse frequently.