13 Things You Might Not Know About Yeast Infectionsby Eileen Bailey Health Writer
Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of Candida, a microscopic fungus found in the digestive tract, on the skin, and in the vagina. Its growth is normally controlled by healthy bacteria, but it can sometimes grow out of control. Find out how to avoid them – and what to do if you do get one.
Yeast infections cause swelling, itching, and burning of the area around the vulva. You might also experience pain while urinating or during sexual intercourse. One of the telltale signs is a thick white discharge that can resemble cottage cheese.
Yeast infections are common condition
Yeast infections are very common. Womenshealth.gov indicates that 75 percent of women will have one, and about half of all women will have two or more, over a lifetime. About 5 percent of women will have four or more a year. If you get recurrent yeast infections, talk to your doctor about being checked for diabetes.
Factors that increase your risk of a yeast infection
Risk factors for yeast infections include pregnancy; having diabetes with uncontrolled blood sugar; using a hormonal birth control, especially those that have higher levels of estrogen; using douche or vaginal sprays; taking antibiotics or steroid medications; and having a weakened immune system.
It’s sexually contagious
While a yeast infection is not an STD, you can get a yeast infection from having sex with someone who already has one. About 15 percent of men who have sex with a woman who has a yeast infection will develop an itchy rash on their penis. If your partner is a woman, there is a higher risk that you can pass the infection to her.
Talk to your doctor first thing
Even though there are over-the-counter (OTC) medications for yeast infections, it is best to talk to your doctor before taking them. Other infections, such as bacterial vaginosis and some STDs, can have similar symptoms. OTC medications for yeast infections will not help other infections, and if you don’t have a yeast infection you can build up a resistance to these medications.
Back up your birth control
Some medications for yeast infections can weaken condoms and diaphragms. If you are using these types of birth control, talk to your doctor about when it will be safe to resume using them to avoid unplanned pregnancies.
Beware of certain yeast infection medications
One medication for yeast infections, oral fluconazole, may cause birth defects. Always talk to your doctor before treating a yeast infection if you are pregnant.
Some studies have indicated that eating yogurt with live cultures or taking a supplement of Lactobacillus acidophilus can help to prevent yeast infections, but the research is not definitive.
Douching can cause yeast infections because it removes the “good” bacteria from your vagina, allowing Candida to grow.
Stay clean to prevent yeast infections
Good feminine hygiene is important for preventing yeast infections. You should change tampons, pads, and panty liners often. It is best to avoid scented products, including bubble baths and feminine sprays. After using the bathroom, always wipe from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria into the vagina.
What to wear to steer clear of yeast infections
You might be able to lower your risk of getting a yeast infection by wearing cotton underwear, avoiding tight pants or pantyhose, changing wet swimsuits or damp workout clothes immediately, and avoiding hot tubs and very hot baths.
Yeast in the mouth
Yeast infections can also appear in the mouth. When they do, they are called thrush. This can cause lesions on your tongue, cheeks, and gums. If it's in your esophagus, you might find it painful to swallow.