Yeast infections are terribly uncomfortable, yet very common. In fact, most women will get one at some point in their life.
Dr. Amy French, an OBGYN affiliated with Sharp Community Medical Group, recently answered five important questions related to vaginal yeast infections, including what they are, why we get them and how to treat them.
- What is a yeast infection?
A yeast infection involves an overgrowth of candida, which is a type of yeast. It usually features symptoms including thick, white vaginal discharge and significant itching and burning in and around the vagina and vulva.
What causes a yeast infection?
Infection occurs when there’s an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina, which can be caused by an imbalance of vaginal pH or after a dose of antibiotics that can kill off good bacteria, allowing yeast to flourish. Other factors that can increase the risk of infection are wearing damp workout or swim clothes for too long, or wearing G-string or thong underwear.
- How can a woman be sure she has a yeast infection and not something else?
Yeast infections can be confused with a few other things. Women may experience significant discomfort from an allergic reaction to something, such as a soap or detergent, or a number of other skin conditions that would require a different treatment. Unfortunately, a yeast infection can also be mistaken for something more serious, like a mild herpes outbreak. The best way to know if you have a yeast infection — at least the first time — is to have it confirmed with a test that your gynecologist or primary care doctor can perform.
- Who is at greatest risk for yeast infections?
Yeast infections can affect women from their preteen years through menopause. The most common time is during the teens and 20s when women are more active. Women with diabetes have a higher risk for yeast infection because of elevated sugar levels, which fuel yeast production. Yeast infections are also more common during pregnancy, when the immune system is slightly weakened and there is a change in pH and the moisture balance in a woman’s reproductive tract.
- How are yeast infections treated?
There are many over-the-counter antifungal treatments that can be very useful. You can use a suppository or cream. I typically like the three-day treatments because the one-day treatment is sometimes too harsh and the seven-day treatment takes too long.
If a woman is having frequent yeast infections, there are prescription medications that can be very effective, including an oral treatment that just takes one dose. There are also prescription creams that are stronger and cover more types of yeast than the over-the-counter creams do. To help limit the frequency of recurrent yeast infections, I recommend that women use an oral probiotic daily.
Talk with your primary care doctor or OBGYN if you have concerns about yeast infections or other vaginal infections or irritations, especially if you are pregnant or have never before had a yeast infection.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Amy French about yeast infections for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.