A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection. It is a self-diagnosable and common condition in women. It is also known as Candidiasis. A healthy vagina has bacteria and some yeast cells which are kept in check by Lactobacillus (“good bacteria”) but when the bacteria and yeast cells changes and there is an imbalance, the yeast cells multiply. Vaginal yeast infection is not the same as a sexually transmitted disease or urinary tract infection.
The vagina is different from vulva. A vulva is the outer part of the female genitals. The vulva includes the opening of the vagina, the labia majora, the labia minora and the clitoris.
The vagina is a tube or canal that connects the vulva to the cervix and uterus. The vagina is where penetration occurs during sex, where menstruation flows through and where a baby descends during childbirth.
Causes of Vaginal Yeast Infection
Candida albicans (a specific type of yeast) causes most yeast infection. Other causes of yeast infection include:
- Prolonged use of antibiotics. This decreases the amount of lactobacillus in the vagina
- Weak immune system
- Hormonal imbalance especially near menstrual cycle
- Pregnancy. This is because of hormone fluctuations
- Uncontrolled diabetes
Signs and Symptoms of Vaginal Yeast Infection
The signs and symptoms of yeast infection include:
- Whitish yellow and clumpy/cheesy vaginal discharge
- Itching and irritation in the vagina and vulva
- Burning sensation while urinating or during sex
- Vaginal soreness
- Swelling and redness of the vulva
- Vaginal rash
Diagnosis of Vaginal Yeast Infection
To diagnose a vaginal yeast infection, the following are to be taken from the individual by the medical professional:
- Medical History: The individual provides information about past vaginal infections or sexually transmitted infections.
- Pelvic Examination: The external genital is examined for redness, swelling, rash, and other signs of infection. An instrument called speculum is inserted into the vaginal and a pelvic exam is performed by the physician and a vaginal smear sample is taken from the vagina and examined under microscope to determine the type of fungus causing the yeast infection.
Medical Treatment of Vaginal Yeast Infection
The treatment of yeast infection depends on the severity and frequency of the infection.
For simple (mild to moderate symptoms and infrequent episodes) treatment options include:
- Short-course Vaginal Therapy: These antifungal medications are taken for a period of one to seven days and they are available as creams, ointment, tablets and suppositories. Examples are Miconazole, Terconazole, Clotrimazole, Fluconazole and Butoconazole.
- Single-dose Oral Medication: A one-time, single oral dose of Fluconazole can be taken to treat simple yeast infection. Oral medication isn’t recommended if pregnant to avoid birth defect.
For severe symptoms of yeast infection, treatment options include:
- Long-course Vaginal Therapy: For more severe symptoms of yeast infection, an antifungal medication may be prescribed to be taken for up to two weeks, followed by once a week for six months.
- Azole Resistant Therapy: A capsule called Boric Acid may be inserted into the vagina. It is used to treat candida fungus that is resistant to the antifungal agents.
- Multidose Oral Medication: A two or three doses of an antifungal medication is prescribed to be taken by mouth instead of suppository. It is not recommended for a pregnant woman.
Prevention of Vaginal Yeast Infection
To avoid or reduce the chance of vaginal yeast infection, the following are to be adhered to:
- Wear a cotton underwear that doesn’t fit too tightly. It doesn’t hold onto heat or moisture.
- Keep things loose. Ensure jeans, skirts, pantyhose, etc., are not too tight.
- Washing and proper sun drying of clothes and underwear.
- Avoid douching. It can remove some of the healthy bacteria that helps to protect against infection.
- Avoid unnecessary antibiotic use.
- Avoid staying in wet clothing such as swimsuits for long periods of time
- Avoid using vaginal sprays or scented feminine products on the vagina.
- Avoid hot tubs and extra hot baths.
- Always wipe from front to the back in the toilet or bathroom.
- When on periods, change menstrual pads often.
- Manage diabetes and keep blood sugar levels under control.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
Complications of Vaginal Yeast Infection
A yeast infection can affect other parts of the body if left untreated. This is called invasive candidiasis. The symptoms can also get worse. The complications may include:
- Skin infection: if the inflamed area cracked or if continuous scratching opens up the skin.
- Severe pains.