Most women will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime. Some even have recurring bouts of this uncomfortable infection. The good news is that simple lifestyle changes can keep yeast infections at bay.
Vaginal Yeast Infection Information
Candidiasis is an infection caused by the yeast Candida albicans. Although Candida albicans is normally present in the body, if an imbalance occurs, the fungus multiplies quickly and causes the symptoms of vaginal candidiasis.
A vaginal yeast infection develops inside the vagina and around the vaginal opening when Candida albicans begin to multiply quickly. The infection causes intense itching, a thick white discharge, pain and redness, and pain during urination. It's best to seek diagnosis from a physician the first time a suspected infection occurs. Women who have occasional repeat yeast infections usually can get satisfactory treatment from over-the-counter creams and medications.
Who's at Risk for Vaginal Yeast Infections?
The majority of women have at least one bout with vaginal candidiasis during adulthood. Women who are pregnant, have weakened immune systems, or have chronic conditions such as diabetes are at increased risk. Women who use broad-spectrum antibiotics or corticosteroid medications also are at risk because the medications can kill off "good" bacteria and allow Candida albicans to thrive.
Defensive Measures Against Vaginal Yeast Infections
There are several measures you can take to prevent a recurrence of vaginal candidiasis:
- Keep the vaginal area clean and dry. Use unscented soap and don't be tempted to use douches or feminine hygiene sprays. Even something as simple as scented laundry detergent can leave residue on undergarments that irritates the vaginal area and encourage Candida albicans to multiply.
- Avoid tight clothing and opt for cotton underwear rather than nylon underwear. Pantyhose also can trap moisture, which is never a good idea when it comes to preventing yeast infections.
- Pregnancy changes everything, and your hormones are certainly no exception. Hormonal changes can sometimes trigger yeast infections, so it is especially important to keep the vaginal area dry during pregnancy.
- Watch your use of medications, especially antibiotics, because they can kill the body's beneficial bacteria and cause a yeast infection. Talk with your physician if you have questions about any medications you take.
- After swimming or exercising, quickly change out of damp clothing and thoroughly dry the vaginal area.
Dr. Larry Lutwick is a Professor of Medicine at the State University of New York - Downstate Medical School in Brooklyn, New York and Director of Infectious Diseases, Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Health Care System, Brooklyn Campus. He is also Bacterial Diseases Moderator for the real time online infectious diseases surveillance system, Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED-mail) and has authored more than 100 medical articles and 15 book chapters. He has edited two books on infectious diseases.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.