Mary Ellen Dirlam, MD, PhD, is an internal medicine physician on staff at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. Her office can be reached at (602) 839-3927.
Question: I get yeast infections every few months. Is this normal and how can I stop them?
Answer: Vaginal yeast infection, clinically known as candida vulvovaginitis, can occur for many reasons. The infection, which is characterized by vaginal itching, discomfort with urination or sexual intercourse, and/or the presence of a thick white discharge, results from an overgrowth of the naturally occurring yeast-like fungus, candida.
The use of antibiotics, hormonal contraceptives and contraceptive devices as well as conditions such as pregnancy, diabetes and an overall weakened immune system can hinder friendly bacteria in the body from regulating candida and, in turn, increase the risk of a yeast infection.
While the occurrence of yeast infections is generally sporadic, some women develop them more frequently. The condition is considered recurrent when a woman experiences more than four infections in a year.
Treatment for periodic yeast infections may include prescription oral or topical medications or over-the-counter topical therapies. Recurrent yeast infections, which should be evaluated by a health care provider, are usually treated with the same medications used for periodic infections, but for longer periods of time.
After a recurrent infection has been resolved, weekly treatments with oral or topical therapies may help prevent another infection. Unfortunately, oral probiotics, topical boric acid, and treating sexual partners have not proven effective in stopping yeast infections.
Ultimately, managing your underlying risk factors is the best approach when it comes to preventing yeast infections. If you suspect that you have recurrent yeast infections, contact your health care provider for evaluation.