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What Is Vaginal Candidiasis?
Vaginal candidiasis is a fungal infection most often caused by a type of yeast called Candida albicans. Some infections can result from other forms of Candida.
C.Â albicans is naturally housed in the body and on the skin. It is most commonly found in the mouth, throat, and gut as well as the vagina in women.
A healthy vagina contains a normal balance of yeast and beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus. But certain conditions can cause C. albicans to multiply and lead to an infection.
Different medical terms for vaginal yeast infections include:
- Vaginal candidiasis
- Vulvovaginal candidiasis
- Candidal vaginitis
Vaginal Candidiasis Symptoms
The classic symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection can be very uncomfortable, and include:
- Pain and soreness
- Pain during sexual intercourse (burning sensation)
- Pain and discomfort when urinating (burning sensation)
- Unusual vaginal discharge (thick and white with a cottage cheese appearance or thin and watery)
- Itching and irritation near the vagina or vulva
Most yeast infections are mild; however, they can become severe. Symptoms of a severe or complicated yeast infection are:
- Redness around the vulva
- Cracks in the vaginal wall
- Vaginal rash
These symptoms can be similar to other vaginal infections. If youâve never experienced a yeast infection or your symptoms seem unusual, book an appointment with your gynecologist.
What Causes a Yeast Infection?
Vaginal yeast infections are quite common and could be the result of factors ranging from underwear fabric to diet.
Some of the most frequent causes of yeast infections include:
- Antibiotic use
- Hormonal contraceptive (birth control pills) use
- Unhealthy diet (high in sugar)
- Menstruation (high estrogen levels)
Risk factors associated with complicated yeast infections include:
- Excessive yeast infection symptoms
- Experiencing four or more yeast infections per year
- Having an infection caused by a rare fungus
- Having a weakened immune system (caused by medications or HIV)
Treatment for Vaginal Candidiasis
The most effective treatment for a yeast infection is antifungal medicine. Two of the most popular drugs are fluconazole and miconazole.
- Fluconazole: A single-dose prescription pill that will treat most yeast infections. Symptoms make take a few days to clear, and the treatment is highly effective.
- Miconazole: An over-the-counter (OTC) topical cream. It comes in various formulas that can treat a yeast infection in three, five, or seven days. It can be messy and takes slightly longer to kill the infection than fluconazole, but may relieve itchiness faster.
Severe or recurring yeast infections may be treated with:
- Multiple doses of fluconazole
- Boric acid, nystatin, or flucytosine (as suppositories)
Tips toÂ Prevent Vaginal Yeast Infections
The best way to fight vaginal yeast infections is by taking preventative measures. Of course, these measures cannot guarantee that you wonât get a yeast infection, but they might reduce the risk.
These infections are very common and may simply occur on their own. Still, you can potentially reduce your risk of a vaginal yeast infection by:
- Showering soon after exercising
- Removing any wet bathing suits or clothing as soon as possible
- Avoiding extremely tight-fitting clothes
- Avoiding wearing a pantyliner every day (traps in moisture)
- Choosing breathable, cotton underwear (over spandex, silk, lace, polyester, etc.)
- Limiting your sugar and processed food intake
- Avoiding douches and vaginal sprays or lotions
- Only using antibiotics when necessary
Other preventive techniques may involve:
- Vaseline/petroleum jelly: âVaselineâ applied to the vulva may help ease itching and act as a barrier against yeast.
- Probiotics: Probiotics are healthy bacteria that may help balance vaginal microbial populations. Sound data on the effects of probiotics is lacking, but including more of them in your diet, via food or supplementation, is unlikely to cause any harm.
- Food: Foods like papaya, Greek yogurt, and kefir are all rich sources of probiotics that are easy to include in your diet.
- Supplements: If youâre using supplements, look for options with high Lactobacillus colony-forming units (CFU).
Yeast Infection Home Remedies Can Be Risky
There is a lot of information out there about potential home remedies to treat yeast infections. Almost none of the treatments, however, are backed by scientific data. Perhaps more importantly, many of them may make your symptoms worse.
Yogurt (Topical or Inserts)
There are women who strongly endorse the topical application of plain, probiotic yogurt to the vulva. Some even support its insertion into the vagina for relief. However, research on the effectiveness of these methods is very limited.
You should not apply probiotic yogurt directly to your vulva or vagina without first discussing it with your doctor. It can lead to irritation, and the naturally occurring sugars can promote further Candida growth.Â
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another highly touted natural remedy for yeast infections. A potentially safe way to administer this treatment would be to add a half-cup to a tepid bath for a half-hour soak to help fight or kill yeast. There is little data, however, to show that it works.
Avoid the direct application of apple cider vinegar to your vagina. Doing so can disrupt your pH balance and bacterial composition and boost your risk of infection.
Coconut oil is another hyped at-home treatment you can find in your pantry. But once again, there is little data to support its efficacy. Applying pure organic coconut oil to the vagina may offer some anti-fungal and anti-itching support, but there is very little evidence that it will help.
Treating Yeast Infections at Home
A vaginal yeast infection will not go away overnight. If youâre looking to get rid of symptoms as fast as possible, most infections can be treated with the OTC antifungal creams at your local pharmacy. They work, and they act quickly.
If your infection doesnât clear with OTC medication, you may need a prescription drug from your gynecologist.
Home remedies like sitting in a tub with apple cider vinegar or applying coconut oil may offer some relief. But be warned that these options are often ineffective, and certainly wonât act quickly. They may also lead to further irritation.
If you regularly struggle with yeast infections, talk to your doctor about some stronger treatment options.
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