Did you know that 75% of women have experienced a vaginal yeast infection at least once, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but it’s not something often discussed.
Even though they’re common, we get it, yeast infections can feel taboo. Oftentimes, confusion can create a lot of unnecessary stress. So – what causes them, what are the symptoms, and how do you get relief?
What is a vaginal yeast infection?
A fungus called Candida is found in small numbers in the normal vagina, according to Dr. Kelley Saunders, MD, an OBGYN at Banner – University Medicine Women’s Institute. But sometimes these organisms get out of balance and too many yeast cells grow in the vagina, resulting in a yeast infection.
Causes of a yeast imbalance
“The balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina may become altered due to many different reasons, including use of antibiotics, dietary changes, medications, hormones, pregnancy or diabetes,” says Dr. Saunders. It’s important to note, says Dr. Saunders, that a yeast infection is not sexually transmitted.
If you’re experiencing vaginal discomfort such as itching or tenderness, you may have a yeast infection. Pain or burning may occur when going to the bathroom or having sexual intercourse. You may also notice a thick discharge resembling cottage cheese. Interesting fact: yeast infections are more likely to develop in the week before your menstrual period.
Don’t worry, most yeast infections are easy to treat. If you suspect you have a vaginal yeast infection and haven’t had one before, you should consult your doctor for treatment options. An OBGYN or primary care physician can accurately diagnose your condition from your symptoms and recommend the appropriate prescription or over-the-counter remedy. If it’s not your first, the good news is that yeast infections can be treated with topical or oral medications, which usually provide quick relief. If you are pregnant, you should discuss any treatments with your doctor to ensure they are safe to use in pregnancy.
Are yeast infections preventable?
Dr. Saunders says there are no specific prevention measures you can take, as sporadic infections may occur without a precipitating factor. However, she says, “For women with diabetes, maintaining normal blood glucose levels is important, as poor control may increase the risk of developing vaginal yeast infections.” Also, only take antibiotics when prescribed and exactly as your healthcare provider tells you.
Do these symptoms sound familiar? You don’t need to wait to get relief. Make an appointment with a Banner Health physician to ensure you are properly diagnosed and treated.