Vaginal yeast infections are a common condition that most women will experience at some point in their lives. Characterized by itching, burning, and thick discharge, yeast infections can be uncomfortable and frustrating to deal with. Understanding what causes vaginal yeast infections, as well as the available treatment options, can help women find relief fast.
Understanding Vaginal Yeast Infections
A vaginal yeast infection occurs when there is an overgrowth of Candida yeast in the vagina. Candida is a fungus that normally lives in small amounts in the vagina, along with other microorganisms. When the environment in the vagina changes and becomes imbalanced, Candida can multiply quickly, causing an infection.
The most common symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include:
- Vaginal itching and irritation
- Burning sensation, especially during urination or sex
- Thick, white cottage cheese-like discharge
- Redness and swelling of the vulva
- Rash or red patches on the skin around the vagina
While these symptoms are distressing, vaginal yeast infections are generally not serious. They can usually be easily treated with antifungal medications.
Causes Of Vaginal Yeast Infections
There are several factors that can disrupt the natural balance of microorganisms in the vagina, allowing Candida to overgrow:
- Antibiotics – Antibiotics kill bacteria, including the good bacteria that keep Candida under control.
- Hormonal changes – Shifts in estrogen levels due to pregnancy, menstruation, or birth control pills can allow more Candida growth.
- Impaired immune system – Medical conditions like HIV/AIDS or drugs like chemotherapy that suppress the immune system make women more vulnerable to yeast infections.
- Poor hygiene – Not properly cleaning the vaginal area or using scented soaps and sprays can alter vaginal pH levels.
- Irritation – Tight clothing, nylon underwear, douches, lubricants, and condoms/diaphragms can cause irritation that allows Candida to flourish.
- Diabetes – Uncontrolled blood sugar levels in women with diabetes make the vagina an environment favorable to yeast.
Treatments For Vaginal Yeast Infections
Fortunately, there are several effective treatment options for relieving the uncomfortable symptoms of vaginal yeast infections and getting rid of Candida overgrowth.
- Over-the-counter antifungal creams – Clotrimazole, miconazole, and tioconazole are available as 1-3 day treatments. These are inserted into the vagina to kill off fungal cells.
- Prescription oral medications – Pills like fluconazole are taken by mouth to treat the infection by killing the yeast both locally and throughout the body.
- Antifungal suppositories – Suppositories containing antifungal medication are inserted into the vagina where they dissolve. Common antifungal suppositories include terconazole and butoconazole.
- Boric acid suppositories – These vaginal capsules work by balancing vaginal pH levels to suppress yeast overgrowth. Boric acid has antifungal properties.
- Probiotic supplements – Probiotics contain healthy bacteria that can help restore normal vaginal flora and keep Candida under control. Oral supplements or suppositories may be used.
- Natural remedies – Some women find relief using natural remedies like tea tree oil, coconut oil, or oregano oil either taken by mouth or applied topically to the vulva area. Garlic is another popular antifungal home remedy.
Along with treatment, women should avoid irritants like scented products and practice good hygiene. Tight clothing or underwear should be avoided. Partners do not need treatment unless they develop symptoms. Recurring yeast infections may indicate an underlying medical issue that needs attention.
Vaginal yeast infections are a nuisance that most women will deal with in their lifetime. The bothersome symptoms are caused by an overgrowth of Candida yeast in the vagina. A variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to successfully treat yeast infections.
Lifestyle changes can also help prevent recurrent infections. Understanding the causes and treatment options allows women to promptly cure yeast infections when they occur and get back to optimal vaginal health.
A: A vaginal yeast infection occurs when there is an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida in the vagina. This leads to irritation, itching, and thick discharge.
A: Factors that can allow Candida to multiply and cause infection include antibiotics, hormonal changes, impaired immune system, poor hygiene, irritation, and uncontrolled diabetes.
A: Wearing cotton underwear, avoiding scented products, not using douches, treating diabetes, and taking probiotics can help prevent yeast overgrowth.
A: Yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription antifungal creams, oral fluconazole, boric acid, probiotics, and natural remedies.
A: See your doctor if OTC treatments don’t work, you have frequent infections, you are pregnant, or you have other medical conditions. A doctor can provide stronger prescription medications.