It is an all too common experience for women to suffer from a yeast infection at some point during your lifetime. The National Women's Health Information Center estimates that as many as 75% of women will experience a yeast infection and half of women will go on to have two or more yeast infections.
I remember asking a friend long ago what it was like to have a yeast infection as I had never had one yet and her answer was very descriptive. She said it was like having cottage cheese come out of you while you are so itchy that you could use a wire brush to scratch down there. That was graphic enough for me to get the picture.
But just in case that description is not sufficient here is how to know if you may have a yeast infection:
- Burning, redness, and itching of the vaginal area.
- It hurts when you urinate.
- Your discharge is thick, white, and looks like ricotta or cottage cheese.
- Your discharge does not have a bad odor but smells like yeast.
- Having sexual intercourse may feel painful.
- You may get a red rash and you will feel sore.
What causes yeast infections?
Yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans which is a fungus that is always present in the vagina but if it grows too much then you get an infection.
There are many reasons why you may get a yeast infection which include:
- Being on antibiotics, taking birth control pills, or taking steroids.
- Hormonal changes during your period
- Wearing too tight underwear or pantyhose which trap heat and moisture down there.
- Having an allergic reaction to dyes, chemicals, or perfumes from soaps or even toilet paper.
- Illness, pregnancy, or stress
- A diet high in sugar content
- Not washing sexual toys before re-use
I think the question should be, "What doesn't cause a yeast infection?"
You don't need to be having any sort of sexual intercourse to get a yeast infection. Yeast infections are not considered a Sexually Transmitted Disease. But in rare cases you can pass it along to your sexual partner. Males can get yeast infections too. Doctor Todd Nippoldt, from the Mayo Clinic, has this to say about the the possible transference of a yeast infection: "It's possible for a man to contract a genital yeast infection if he has unprotected sexual intercourse with a partner who has a genital yeast infection. However, just because your girlfriend has a yeast infection doesn't mean you will get one too. Sexual transmission of yeast infections is uncommon." But it probably is a good idea to refrain from sexual intercourse until you have recovered from your yeast infection not only to protect your partner but also to protect yourself from the pain sexual intercourse can cause while you have your infection.
So how do you get rid of a yeast infection?
Well first of all you have to determine if it is a yeast infection you are dealing with in the first place. It may be that you have Bacterial Vaginosis , which left untreated can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease which can destroy your fertility. It could also be Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease which can mimic some of the symptoms of a yeast infection. If you have never had a yeast infection before, or you are at all in doubt about your symptoms do see your doctor or gynecologist.
Here is a fact given to us by the National Women's Health Information Center:
"Studies show that two-thirds of women who buy these products don't really have a yeast infection. Using these medicines the wrong way may lead to a hard-to-treat infection. Plus, treating yourself for a yeast infection when you really have something else may worsen the problem. Certain STIs that go untreated can cause cancer, infertility, pregnancy problems, and other health problems."
Despite the fact that I have had yeast infections before, my gynecologist tells me to come into the office anyway if I feel I am getting one. He says a lot of women take the easiest route of taking the one day over the counter anti-fungal medicine. But in his opinion, this does not often take care of the problem and you end up with a resistant strain which keeps coming back. My gynecologist recommends that if you do buy the over the counter medications to get at least the three day treatment package.
Please remember that if you are pregnant not to use these over the counter medications and do consult with your doctor about how to treat your infection.
So what are your choices for treatment?
- Over the counter antifungal creams, tablets, or suppositories which are inserted into the vagina.
- An oral medicine called Diflucan (fluconazole) prescribed by your doctor. It is usually given as a one dose pill. It is rather expensive for this single dose but so are the over the counter medications.
- There is also Terazol (terconazole) or Nizoral (ketoconazole) which may be used if you are having recurrent yeast infections which do not go away.
Of course there are lots of natural remedies out there touted as being able to cure a yeast infection. Some of these include eating yogurt, garlic, or drinking cranberry juice. To see a list of these natural do it yourself treatments just follow this link.
Remember that the best protocol to use when you feel that something is not quite right down there is to see your doctor or gynecologist. Why suffer needlessly? It may seem an inconvenience to schedule an appointment but it will be an even bigger inconvenience if your infection is not treated properly. Better safe than sorry is a good rule of thumb when it comes to sexual health.