A vaginal yeast infection is caused by a naturally occurring fungus called Candida. When it grows out of control, symptoms like severe itchiness and burning sensations in the genital area occur.
Yeast infection is ruled out as a sexual transmitted disease although the same symptoms may be present in men who have had sexual intercourse with women who are suffering from a yeast infection or men who have jock itch or athlete’s foot.
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Why Does Yeast Infection Occur?
Candida Albicans is the most common of all Candida. It is naturally present in the skin, the colon and inside the digestive tract. Hormonal imbalance is another cause of yeast infection.
The overgrowth of Candida Albicans can also be attributed to Diabetes Mellitus, where the body creates a perfect environment for the proliferation of Candida. Thus, a yeast infection occurs more frequently in people with diabetes.
Since it is a very common condition, there are several ways of testing, treating and care to fight yeast infection. Hundreds of over the counter (OTC) preparations are available as well as prescription drugs aimed at reining the overgrowth of Candida Albicans.
Symptoms of Vaginal Yeast Infections
Visible symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection or vaginitis include
- soreness, pain when urinating,
- itching and pain during intercourse,
- a burning sensation,
- vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese and is odorless. In vaginitis, however, the discharge can have a foul odor.
- In men, a yeast infection may cause severe itching on the penis.
Another painful infection that occurs with the overgrowth of Candida is oral thrush. Because it is a friendly bacterium that normally lives in the digestive tract, it can often come up to the mouth causing this unpleasant condition.
Other Yeast Infections
People with poor immune systems, denture users, those who are taking antibiotics or are undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Adults suffering from diabetes and/or other metabolic disorders, people with a dry mouth and even newborn babies are especially susceptible to oral thrush.
Symptoms of oral thrush are usually white or yellow-colored spots in the mouth, somewhat like pimples and if you scrape off these spots. They leave little raised sores that bleed lightly. There is no pain but the sores can worsen and become painful if left untreated for a long time.
In babies, the condition normally clears out in time but since the condition is brought about by a proliferation of Candida in the mouth, it is advised that after a formula feeding, sterilized water should be offered to the baby to rinse off any formula residue in the mouth thus lessening the Candida population.
In adults, depending on the underlying cause, one must either change dentures or adjust treatments in diabetes patients. AIDS patients are not apt to immune system changes but, a fungal treatment coursed orally has to be given. Normally, Nystatin, Daktarin and Fungilin are the medications of choice for oral thrush.
In Esophagitis, swallowing may cause pain as well as chest pains below the sternum. Deep candidiasis is when the condition spreads to the bloodstream and ticks off different symptoms like unexplained fevers to shock and even multiple organ failure.
Cutaneous (skin) candidiasis is another condition that may display weepy, red and moist skin with tiny pustules close by.
Treatments for Yeast Infections
Depending on the part of the body that is affected these are the usual drugs used:
Oral Thrush – antifungal and topical preparations like Nystatin. A liquid version of the same is prescribed for milder cases where it is swished around in the mouth and then swallowed.
For vaginal yeast infections, it depends on the severity of the infection. Antifungal preparations of butoconazole, clotrimazole, nystatin, miconazole, itraconazole in the form of, vaginal tablets, ointments, creams, and suppositories.
Candid-V cream & tablet, a common antifungal cream prescribed by doctors contain clotrimazole.
Sometimes a single oral dose of fluconazole is administered although it is not advised if the patient is pregnant. It is not necessary for sexual partners to be treated.
Esophagitis – fluconazole, ketoconazole or itraconazole are your doctor’s best bets in treating esophagitis. Patients with HIV /AIDS are best treated with fluconazole.
Cutaneous candidiasis – usually treated with a wide range of antifungal creams, ointments, and powders with an active ingredient against Candida. The area should be cleaned and dried constantly and must avoid chafing.
Deep candidiasis – because of its severity, intravenous drugs like amphotericin B are introduced to contain the infection from spreading.
Bear in mind that in typically healthy people, infections like this are superficial and go away after being properly treated. Usually, no permanent damage is left and the individual continues life as if nothing ever happened.
Recurrence is very unlikely in people who remain healthy and practice proper hygiene. Deep candidiasis, however, relies on early diagnosis and proper treatment. If found early enough, the problem can be stopped before it spreads to major organs.
Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies
There are several popular home remedies for treating vaginal yeast infections. These have been proven safe and effective.
1. Tea tree oil
You will need 1 tampon with applicator, tea tree oil and some kind of lubricant like K-Y. Expose only half of the tampon from the applicator. Apply the tea tree oil onto the exposed half of the tampon and push it back into the applicator and insert it into the vagina.
Apply the K-Y on the tip of the tampon if difficulty in insertion is encountered. If the tea tree oil stings too much, you can retract the tampon instead of keeping it in the vagina. The important thing is to that you were able to apply some tea tree oil on the areas affected inside the vaginal canal. Do this every day until the infection subsides.
2. Vinegar douches – For women:
Do this for about 3-4 days and it is sure to relieve you of your symptoms. Create a mixture of 1 part water and 1-part white vinegar. Find a syringe that is large enough to hold at least 100cc of the mixture. Use the syringe as your douche twice a day for 3-4 days.
For men: make a mixture of 3 parts vinegar to 1-part warm water. Use a cotton swab to apply the mixture to the affected parts at least twice a day. Symptoms will disappear in about 3-4 days and application of the mixture will relieve the itching and soreness.
3. Boric acid suppositories
Found at some compounding pharmacies, boric acid suppositories were found to be as effective as itraconazole. A commercial brand suppository marketed as Yeast Arrest contains boric acid and the herbs oregon grape and calendula. As the name suggests, it is targeted at yeast infections.
Process 3 garlic cloves in a food processor until very fine and gradually add 3 to 4 cups of water. Use this mixture as a douche once a day. The process allows the antibiotic properties of garlic, allicin, to work wonders on yeast infections. Several clinical trials have proven Allicin to be effective against trichomonas and candida.
Prevention of Vaginal Yeast Infections
- It is always the same advice given to all. Eating a balanced diet, be physically active, practicing proper hygiene and practicing safe sex, etc. All these are also the best ways to prevent any Candida infections.
- People with diabetes should go the extra mile to maintain low sugar levels in their blood. Not doing so will only be preparing an environment susceptible to Candida overgrowth but also be life-threatening because of diabetes.
- Those with HIV / AIDS on the other hand, can depend on antifungal drugs like clotrimazole to help lessen infections.
Prevention is worth a pound of cure. We should be conscious of our health as we are with our financial situations. A healthy body can save you thousands in terms of health care costs so it is imperative that you watch your health. Insurance costs are also rising and some insurance companies even turn down individuals with dread diseases.
Your doctor will help you decide which is right for your kind of infection. It is always advisable to check with your doctor if you are displaying symptoms of a yeast infection.
Also read about chronic constipation
Vaginal yeast infection it is not embarrassing nor is it something to be ashamed of. Healthy people often have yeast infections. A visit to your doctor will confirm what kind of what you can do for your condition.
Rosalba Sigorina is a registered nurse and primary healthcare provider who worked in UAE and Singapore. She is passionate about writing on complex medical issues with thorough research & own experience in simple to read & easy to understand language.