Suffering from severe vaginal itching? Does it burn when you urinate? Have you noticed unusual redness around your vagina? Do you suffer from thick, clumpy vaginal discharge? Does it hurt during sexual intercourse? If you answered to all of these in the affirmative, chances are you have what is commonly and colloquially referred to as a yeast infection. The scientific term is candidal vulvovaginitis. This is nothing but excessive growth of yeast in the vagina. This condition can cause discomfort and irritation.
What are vaginal yeast infections?
Yeast infections are unbelievably common. Statistics show that most women have had a yeast infection at some point in their lives. Candida albicans is a type of fungus that is usually present in meager quantities in different body parts like digestive tracts, mouth, skin as well as the vagina. A woman's vagina is populated with several 'good' bacteria and yeast that are necessary to maintain the pH of the vagina, much like the bacteria present in our guts. These are generally present in a balanced manner, with the bacteria producing acid to counter the yeast. However, sometimes the proportion of candida albicans or yeast can increase. This excess is what results in the anathema that women recognize as vaginal yeast infection.
What causes vaginal yeast infections?
Myriad factors are responsible for the condition. Some of them are:
- Use of antibiotics - this can naturally change the proportion of your vaginal constituents and result into irritability down there or yeast infection
- Changes in estrogen levels - this can occur if one partakes of oral contraceptives or hormonal injections
- Pregnancy can result into many changes in a woman's body - vaginal yeast infections are hardly uncommon when you are expecting
- Dysfunctional immune system or impairment to immune system - prolonged illnesses can often stress one's immune system and vaginal yeast infection may occur while the system is in the process of repairing itself
Typically it is not considered contagious, but can be transferred from a woman to man, and vice versa (in case of penile/prepuce yeast infection) during sexual intercourse. Oral contact with genitalia can also cause the transfer. Although a yeast infection is not considered a venereal or sexually transmitted disease, it can certainly make one more susceptible to it.
Diagnosing vaginal yeast can be confusing and one may err in the same. Typically, a doctor would do a vaginal examination to confirm the symptoms are from a vaginal yeast infection.
Upon identifying vaginal yeast infection, it is crucial that you start the treatment pronto! Sundry effective home remedies have been passed down by generations to combat this affliction. The right medical help and care can rid one of the infection within a few days. That said, there is a probability that some of the symptoms, like vaginal and vulvar irritation, will last up to as long as two weeks.
This makes it even more important to recognize the condition and seek medical help on time. Some of the most common symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are:
- Severe and uncontrollable vaginal itching
- Thick, white vaginal discharge which is generally odorless
- Stinging sensation while urinating
- Visible redness of the vulva
Natural remedies to treat vaginal yeast infections
While various treatments are doled out by medical professionals to treat vaginal yeast infections, many home remedies have been espoused by women across geographies.
- Garlic and tea tree oil are popularly used in treating infections - placing garlic cloves in the vagina before bed, or using diluted tea-tree oil for the vagina has been recommended by many women
- Douching with diluted vinegar is recommended by some
- Other remedies like use of coconut oil or pomegranate gel are also quite well-known
- Boric acid has antiseptic properties and can be used to treat chronic vaginal yeast infection with a suppository
- Oil of oregano made of wild oregano or origanum vulgare can effectively cure you of vaginal yeast infection by inhibiting candida albicans, but it may not be advisable for those who have blood-clotting issues
Several non-prescription vaginal medicines as well as boric acid capsules are also available for treatment. However, self-treatments and home remedies are not always recommended as the symptoms may be caused by a STI and not a yeast infection.
There is no scientific evidence proving that home-remedies are the best options for treating vaginal yeast infections. In fact, vinegar washes may sometimes be harmful and can further exacerbate the condition. So even though organic, alternative remedies are making a comeback, it is advisable to exercise caution and prudence when it comes to vaginal health. Don't trust your grandma's tips blindly! Be sure to seek advice from your doctor before you try these.
It is preferable to seek the counsel of a professional medical practitioner in particular when suffering from yeast infections during pregnancy. Vaginal yeast infections are almost a norm when you are carrying and can escalate into complicated conditions if the right amount of circumspection is not observed. For example, use of boric acid could be disastrous during a pregnancy and can inadvertently even lead to termination. Rely on prescribed drugs, oral medicines and suggestions from your gynecologist when suffering from an infection during pregnancy.
Prevention is always better than cure. While treating a vaginal yeast infection is hardly an ordeal, one would certainly be better off without one. Here are some ways you can avoid the discomfort and vexation that a yeast infection can endow you with:
- You are what you eat, indeed! Do partake of a healthy, balanced diet. Women are recommended to eat foods that contain lactobacillus organisms such as yoghurt and acidophilus milk. While no concrete evidence exists that there is a connection between the consumption of these foods and prevention of yeast infection, the protein certainly won't harm!
- Watch those blood sugar levels ladies! Diabetes can be horrifying in itself, but it will also make you prone to vaginal yeast infections.
- Avoid antibiotics when you can. This may not always be practicable, but one must try to use them sparingly as they are notorious for changing the pH of your vagina, which can lead to yeast infections.
- In general, keep your privates clean. Use mild, pH-neutral soap and warm water. Don't forget to rinse well.
- Avoid transfer of bacteria from your anus to your vagina by wiping front to back after using the toilet.
- It may be important to feel sexy, but panty-hose, g-strings, thongs, etc. can wreak havoc on your vagina by retaining heat and moisture in that area. Try to limit the use of sexy lingerie for special occasions and stick to cotton panties on an everyday basis - particularly if you live in hot, humid regions and during summers.
- Avoid douching and scented tampons or sanitary pads. These often change the natural balance of organisms in your vagina.
In conclusion it is important to remember that a vaginal yeast infection is hardly something to be embarrassed of. Three out of four women suffer from this infection. While it is ubiquitous and fairly common, be sure to always look out for yourself and your genitals in particular. The vagina is a fascinating and self-regulating organ in women and it deserves all the love and care it can get!