Thrush Infection Vaginal Yeast

Yeast is always present in the body. When it grows uncontrollably, however, a yeast infection can occur.

Yeast flourishes in moist, warm places. That’s why more than 75 percent of women will experience at least one vaginal yeast infection at some point in their lives. The vagina provides a perfect environment for yeast to thrive, although its usually acidic environment generally prevents yeast from growing and turning into an infection. When acid levels drop, however, yeast starts to grow and an infection can occur.

Vaginal Yeast Infection: Causes

Vaginal yeast infections, sometimes called vaginal thrush, stem from a number of factors. Most are caused by an increase in Candida albicans, a fungus common in the vagina. There are a number of things that can cause an overgrowth of Candida, including:

  • Antibiotics put women at higher risk for developing a yeast infection, as they destroy the good bacteria that helps prevent vaginal infection.
  • Doctors find that women with immune disorders, such as HIV, diabetes and multiple sclerosis, sometimes experience recurrent yeast infections. Patients with these conditions are advised to take extra precautions and to see a doctor immediately if and when symptoms appear.
  • High levels of the female hormone estrogen, found in women who are pregnant and who are taking an oral contraceptive pill, can cause an increase in Candida.
  • Women who wear moisture-trapping or tight clothing, such as LYCRA®, nylon or other synthetic fibers, face a higher risk of yeast infection. These materials prevent air from reaching the vagina and create a perfect climate for yeast to spread. Cotton and other breathable fabrics are preferred.

Vaginal Yeast Infection: Symptoms

Learning the signs of yeast infection is important. Women should take note, however, that doctors discourage self-diagnosis and treatment of yeast infections, especially if the woman doesn’t have a history of yeast infections. Instead, they recommend scheduling an appointment to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Misdiagnosis is not uncommon and can lead to complications and further problems.

At the appointment, doctors usually conduct a pelvic exam to look for dry, white plaques on the vaginal wall, a classic sign of yeast infection. A sample of the vaginal discharge might also be taken to look for widespread Candida.

Common symptoms of yeast infection include:

  • abnormal vaginal discharge that may look watery or white and thick, like cottage cheese
  • itching and burning in the vagina and around the vulva (the skin surrounding the vagina)
  • pain during sexual intercourse
  • redness of the vulva
  • swelling of the vulva.

More severe cases may cause painful and/or frequent urination. These are signs that the urinary opening is inflamed.

Treatment Options for Vaginal Yeast Infections

Treatment options vary from home remedies and over-the-counter creams to doctor-prescribed medications.

Over-the-counter treatments generally take one to seven days to administer. Treatments include creams and ointments. The most common and popular yeast infection treatments include:

  • Femstat®
  • Gyne-Lotrimin®
  • Monistat®
  • Mycostatin®
  • Vagisil®.

As an alternative to over-the-counter creams, which sometimes get messy, vaginal suppositories and tablets are also available.

Oral medications prescribed by a doctor include:

  • Diflucan®, which can be taken in one dose
  • Nizoral®, which is taken once or twice daily for seven to 14 days.

Women experiencing recurring vaginal yeast infections sometimes use boric acid capsules for treatment. Doctors usually recommend inserting one capsule vaginally before bed twice a week, starting one week after the end of the menstrual period.

Preventing Yeast Infections

Specialists also suggest a number of tips for preventing vaginal yeast infections, such as:

  • always wearing white cotton underwear (not thongs or other binding materials)
  • avoiding douching, feminine hygiene sprays, scented sanitary pads/tampons and perfumed soaps or toilet paper
  • changing immediately out of wet swimsuits and workout clothes
  • eating regular servings of yogurt, which contains beneficial bacteria
  • sleeping without underwear at night to allow air exposure
  • taking regular baths, which dry out the vulva skin
  • using a blow dryer on a low, cool setting to further dry out the vulva area after baths or showers
  • wiping from front to back after using the bathroom to prevent rectal bacteria from entering the vagina.

Resources

Cornforth, T. (2007). Vaginal Yeast InfectionTreatments and Tips to Avoid Infection. Retrieved August 29, 2007, from the About.com Web site: Women’s Health Web site: http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/yeastinfections/a/vagyeastinfecti_2.htm.

Family Doctor (2005). Vaginal Yeast Infections. Retrieved August 29, 2007, from the Family Doctor Web site:http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/women/reproductive/vaginal/206.html.

Greenfield, M. (2004). Preventing Yeast Infections. Retrieved August 29, 2007, from the Dr. Spock Web site: http://www.drspock.com/article/0,1510,6235,00.html.

Medline Plus (2006). Medical Encyclopedia: Vaginal Yeast Infection. Retrieved August 29, 2007, from the Medline Plus Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001511.htm.