According to the Mayo Clinic, seventy–five percent of women will experience a yeast infection at least once in their lives, and once you’ve had one, you are more susceptible to getting another. There is a natural occurring, small amount of yeast fungus that lives in the vagina. When the number of vaginal yeast cells, called candida, exceeds normal amounts, it can mean that a vaginal yeast infection, also known as candidiasis, has developed. While uncomfortable, yeast infections are not uncommon, and more importantly, are not usually serious.
Most yeast infections are caused by a type of yeast called Candida albicans. Normally, naturally occurring levels of the bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus helps to keep yeast levels in check, however when naturally occurring bacteria and yeast fall out of balance, yeast can overgrow. An overgrowth of yeast can be caused by some antibiotics, douching, high estrogen levels that occur during pregnancy, or as a side effect of hormone therapy. Women who suffer from diabetes or HIV infection may also be at an increased risk of developing yeast infections. Other causes of yeast infections may include poor eating habits, including an over-consumption of sugary foods, stress, or lack of sleep. Vaginal yeast infections can also be spread through sexual contact, but in general are not considered a sexually transmitted infection.
The symptoms of yeast infections may include:
- Itching, swelling, irritation, or soreness of the vagina
- Vaginal rash
- Burning during urination or sex
- Development of a thick, clumpy, white or grayish discharge that has no odor, but is often described as looking like cottage cheese, though the discharge may also be watery at times
To diagnose a yeast infection, a doctor will likely ask a series of medical history questions, including whether or not you have ever had a yeast infection before, or if you have ever had a sexually transmitted infection. Your doctor will likely next perform a pelvic exam and will examine your vagina, cervix, vaginal walls, and the surrounding area to determine if there are signs of an infection. If necessary, or if you have had frequent yeast infections in the past, your doctor may take a vaginal culture, which will be sent to lab to confirm the underlying issue.
Consult your doctor if you think you may have a yeast infection, especially if you have not been diagnosed as having had one previously. If you have had more than four yeast infections in a year, talk to your doctor. The repeated infections may be caused by a more significant underlying health issue such as diabetes. Women who are pregnant and believe they may have a yeast infection should speak with their doctor, as over-the-counter treatment methods should not be considered for pregnant women.
Over-the-counter yeast infection treatments are available that can be effective for women who are not pregnant. Treatments include antifungal creams and suppositories that are inserted into the vagina. Antifungal oral tablets are also available.
With proper awareness of the symptoms and causes of yeast infections, many women can remain healthy and limit their risk of developing this discomforting condition.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or something just doesn’t seem right, make an appointment to see your gynecologist. He or she can properly diagnose and treat your symptoms. If you are looking for a top OB-Gyn group in Buffalo, give Chouchani, Sayegh and Bagnarello a call today. We are accepting new patients.