How To Recognize, Prevent And Treat Vaginal Yeast Infections

Candidal vulvovaginitis, vaginal candidiasis, or vaginitis is the excessive growth of yeast in the vagina (1). Don't be frightened by the big scientific words. There is a way to treat and prevent vaginitis and easy ways to detect the symptoms. But first, we need to find out how you got such an infection.

What Causes Vaginal Yeast Infections?

Candida, which is a yeast (a type of fungus), lives naturally in the body and on the skin (2). At certain times, when the condition is right, Candida multiples and grows, causing an infection or inflammation in the vagina. It can also affect the external part of the female's genitals, known as the vulva.

As mentioned above, a yeast infection is caused by too much candida in the vagina. It usually occurs in women in their reproductive years. This excessive growth of yeast may be due to (3):

  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • High levels of estrogen during pregnancy
  • The use of Corticosteroid medicines
  • Medication such as steroids, antibiotics, or birth control pills
  • A sexually transmitted disease known as Trichomoniasis
  • Poor immune function in conditions such as chemotherapy, HIV, or AIDS
There is a natural yeast in the vagina called candida. Due to high levels of estrogen, diabetes, certain medication, sexual intercourse, etc. candida can multiply causing an imbalance and a growth of yeast. This is known as vaginitis.

Yeast Infection Symptoms

Woman Covering Her Lower Abdomen

One very distinctive way of recognizing vaginitis is the thick, white discharge from the vagina (4). It will look something like cottage cheese and it is odorless. However, this discharge can also be watery and thin.

Other symptoms include redness, swelling, itching, and pain of the vagina and vulva. It can also be detected with pain and discomfort while urinating or during sexual intercourse.

Symptoms of vaginitis include redness, itching, and pain of the vagina and vulva. However, the more distinct sign is that of a thick, white, odorless discharge that looks like cottage cheese.

Preventing The Onset Of An Infection

As we all know, being a women is not easy. With this said, 75 percent of women will get an infection of the vagina some or other time in their lives (5). Sadly, 40 to 50 percent of women will get vaginitis more than once. Consequently, it cannot always be prevented, however, there are a few measures one can take to lower the odds. The following can be done for yeast infection prevention (6):

  • Avoid tight fitting underwear - It is best to wear underwear that is breathable and which does not hold onto moisture or heat. The best option is cotton underwear (not nylon). It will keep you dry and allow ventilation.
  • Avoid wearing tight fitting pants everyday - Don't wearing tight pants every day. This includes jeans, leggings, tights, pantyhose, yoga pants, and tight sports clothes. During a busy day or strenuous exercise heat and moisture can build-up around one's genitals. It is best to alternate clothes daily and change into loose-fitting clothes after exercising.
  • Do not bath in very hot water or sit for long in hot tubs- It is best to prevent contact with hot and moist areas as this increases the chance of infection.
  • Scented feminine products should be avoided - The scent in products such as sprays, bubble bath, soaps, pads, and tampons may cause an infection.
  • Do not stay in wet clothes - If you have completed a sport or activity and you are sweating or damp, you should shower and change into dry clothes. This goes for swimming as well.
  • Control diabetes - Sugar is seen as a yeast food source. By not controlling your diabetes and sugar intake, you may increase the risk of an infection. This is due to an increased amount of sugar in the moist lining of the vagina which creates a place for yeast to grow.
  • Avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics - It is important to only use antibiotics when it is needed for crucial situations. You do not need to take antibiotics when you have a cold, as this is a viral infection. As antibiotics kills all bacteria (7), even the good bacteria, it will causes a decrease in lactobacillus bacteria in the vagina and a pH change. This imbalance will result in an infection.
  • Remember to change your tampons, panty liner, and pads regularly during your period - By not changing these, it can also cause a build-up of heat and moisture, not to mention that it can become unsanitary.
  • Remember to always wipe from the front to the back when going to the bathroom room - Prevent spreading bacteria by wiping correctly.
  • Strengthen your immune system - It is important to keep your immune system strong especially if you are HIV-positive, during chemotherapy, or any other immune system disorder. This can be done be consuming a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods or by using a daily dietary supplement.
  • Know the person you are having sexual intercourse with - Ensure your partner's genitals are healthy and clean. This infection is not a sexually transmitted disease. However, condoms may prevent you from getting or passing an infection on through vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
Unfortunately, vaginitis occurs in 75 percent of women. There are, however, preventative measures that can be taken to lower the chances of getting this infection. A few include wearing cotton underwear, staying dry in the genital area, avoiding the unnecessary use of antibiotics, and avoiding hot baths.

What Treatments Are Available?

Woman Holding Cup of Yogurt for UTI

It is best to first see a doctor to ensure the diagnosis of your situation. If you have vaginitis, you can purchase antifungal medication over the counter. This medication comes in the form of tablets, creams, and ointments (8). After treating your symptoms, you should start to see positive results within 1 to 7 days.

Eating probiotic yogurt (9) or taking Lactobacillus supplements may slow down the growth of the yeast, however more research is still needed to back these types of treatments.

The symptoms can be treated within 1 to 7 days. Antifungal medication can be used which comes in the form of a tablet, cream, or ointment.

Our Ultimate Take Home Message

An infection in the vaginal area is due to a change in the balance of bacteria and yeast. A fungus called candida can start to grow and cause a yeast infection. Various reasons can cause such an imbalance. These include diabetes, antibiotics, weak immune system, sexual intercourse, and a change in hormones. In most cases, the infection is caused due to an unsanitary, unhealthy, and unhygienic lifestyle.

Nonetheless, 75 percent of women will get this infection some or other time in their lives, no matter how careful they are. Luckily, there are many yeast infection prevention tips one can follow to try to lower the chances or the recurring thereof. It is noteworthy that there are safe and easy treatments available. Within 1 to 7 days, you will be yourself again.

Brought to you by our expert team at Authority Health.

Sabrina is a gem in the world of nutrition and health. She is our go-to resource for articles about healthy eating, balanced diet and the science behind food. She obtained her degree from the Rutgers School of Nursing in New Brunswick before qualifying as a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). However, nursing didn’t fulfill her completely and so her journey with nutrition and health began. Her philosophy is simple - ‘prevention is the cure’ and she strongly advocates that food is medicine.

Sabrina eats only organic food and hopes that one day, she will have her own organic garden because she feels the benefits are untold.

She has made it her life's purpose to teach others about creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and has just set-up her own private practice. She is currently working to build her own website for online advice and guidance. She has a lot to say.

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