Guess what folks? Yeast happens! Not only does yeast happen but a particular type of yeast (candida albicans) is actually a normal part of the vaginal flora (those bacteria and organisms that live in the vagina). Just because yeast is normally in the vagina that doesn’t mean that it can’t sometimes cause problems. When yeast over-grows or when certain types of yeast not typically found in the vagina start to grow there, you will experience the symptoms of a yeast infection.
So, what are the symptoms of a yeast infection?
While many infections of the vaginal and the cervix (the bottom part of the womb or uterus) have very similar symptoms, each infection is a little bit different. Typical signs of a yeast infection include:
- Swelling and discoloration of the vulva (external genitalia) and the vagina (internal genitalia). In white and fairer-skinned women the discoloration tends to be red while in darker-skinned women it tends to make the skin darker.
- Itching: Itching is usually both external and internal and when I say itching, I don’t mean a minor itch, I mean an I could scratch my skin off itch.
- Burning: The inflammation from the infection often causes both external and internal burning in addition to the itching.
- Thick, white vaginal discharge: Patients with a yeast infection frequently have a white discharge that is thick and clumpy (often called a cottage cheese discharge because, well, it looks like cottage cheese).
Can a yeast infection be diagnosed?
Many women will self-diagnose a yeast infection and self-treat using over-the-counter medication. I strongly advise women to see their OB/GYN because not every yeast infection is caused by the types of yeast that are easy to treat and not every “yeast infection” is actually a yeast infection. So how can you or your doctor diagnose a yeast infection?
- Over-the-counter vaginitis test kits: There are actually kits at many drug stores that screen for vaginitis. Different infections affect the pH of the vagina differently, and these kits basically check the vaginal pH.
- Just using those peepers: The easiest way to diagnose a yeast infection (and many other infections) is for your doctor to actually examine the discharge both with the naked eye and under a microscope. Yes, that often does, unfortunately, mean an exam with the speculum.
- Doing a culture: There are cultures that your doctor that screen for most vaginal and cervical infections (STI’s and non-STI’s). The collection takes seconds, and the results are available within a few days.
What can I do to prevent a yeast infection:
We already know that yeast always lives in the vagina, the question is what you can do to keep them from over-growing or to keep abnormal species from infecting?
- Watch your diet: Much likes humans, yeast love sugar. The more sugar in your diet generally the more yeast you will have. And for diabetics, this is reason #194 that you need to keep your blood sugar under good control!
- Take probiotics: Life is all about balance, and that quest for balance extends to your vagina as well. Taking probiotics will help to keep a healthy organism balance in your vagina, preventing unhealthy organisms from causing problems.
- Keep it cool and dry. Yeast are like Floridians, they like it warm and moist. By nature the vagina is a warm, wet environment so, consider cotton underwear versus synthetic fabrics, wear looser fitting clothes, avoid baths and hot tubs, and take a shower ASAP after going to the gym or when sweaty.
How can I treat a yeast infection?
Most yeast infections can be successfully treated with over-the-counter medications. There are times however when a prescription medication from your healthcare worker may be required to do the trick.
- Over-the-counter creams like Clotrimazole are used nightly for 3-7 nights and work well for most yeast infections.
- Fluconazole: Is a pill that your doctor prescribes that quickly treats most yeast infections. Some folks may require two doses to completely eradicate a yeast infection, especially if they have severe symptoms.
- Boric Acid: These suppositories are usually obtained by prescription but can at times also be purchased over-the-counter. 600mg used nightly for two weeks is an excellent option for difficult to treat yeast infection.
We all have to live with yeast, but that doesn’t mean we have to live with yeast infections. If you do feel like you may have a yeast infection, I always recommend that you see your healthcare professional to make sure that it is a yeast infection and not something more dangerous.
Haven’t had enough vaginal discharge yet? Be sure to check out Vaginal Discharge-What’s Normal and When Should You Call Your Doctor RIGHT HERE!
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