If you’re a woman, you’ve likely had a vaginal yeast infection at some point since puberty. It’s an extremely common condition that is caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida. Three out of four women will get at least one yeast infection in their childbearing years, with the infection being rare before puberty and after menopause. More than 50% of women experience two or more yeast infections during their lifetime.
Signs & Symptoms
The telltale signs of a yeast infection can range from mild to severe and include:
- Extreme itchiness in and around the vagina
- Redness and swelling of the vagina and the vulva
- Painful urination
- Painful intercourse
- Soreness around the vagina
- A thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese
Preventing a Yeast Infection
While there’s no way to ensure you’ll never get a yeast infection, there are measures you can take to help prevent one from occurring.
- Change tampons and sanitary pads at least every 4 hours.
- Limit how often you wear tight pants or underwear; tight clothing can cause a warm, moist environment where fungi can grow.
- Wear underwear with a cotton crotch that will help you stay dry in the genital area.
- Change out of wet swimsuits and sweaty workout clothes as soon as possible.
- Do not douche; contrary to popular belief, douching removes the healthy bacteria that helps prevent infections.
- Limit use of scented soaps, tampons, pads, and other products that make contact with your genital area.
- Always wipe from front to back after using the bathroom.
- Limit the use of hot tubs and very hot baths.
There is some research suggesting eating yogurt with live cultures or taking a probiotic with Lactobacillus every day can help prevent yeast infections. This is not yet proven, but making these things a part of your daily routine certainly can’t hurt.
Some conditions, such as diabetes and illnesses that weaken your immune system, can increase your risk of a yeast infection. Women with diabetes can better prevent yeast infections by making sure their blood sugar is under control.
If you’re one of the approximately 5 percent of women who get four or more vaginal yeast infections per year, your doctor can prescribe antifungal medicine to help keep yeast infections at bay for up to six months.
In most cases of infrequent yeast infections, an over-the-counter medication should be all you need for treatment.
If you have recurrent yeast infections or a yeast infection that is not getting better with over-the-counter medication, visit your physician or gynecologist as soon as you can, or contact us at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic in Houston for an appointment.
Dr. Rao is a board-certified Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist at Kelsey-Seybold’s Tanglewood Clinic and Woman’s Center. Her clinical interests include minimally invasive surgery, general and high-risk Obstetrics, adolescent Gynecology, menstrual irregularities, and menopausal disorders and management.