Yeast infections are one of the most common causes of vaginal itching – and girl, they’re miserable when they strike. They itch, they burn, they inflame the tissues all around the vagina – including the labia – and they cause the tissues to thin as well, making them even more tender.
Simply explained, your body is rich with a combination of good bacteria, bad bacteria and fungus. Typically, these three populations sort of balance one another out. When one population begins to outnumber another, you’ll feel it. A yeast infection occurs when the yeast population outnumbers the bacterial population. This causes serious discomfort.
Visit Your Doctor if You Think You Have a Yeast Infection
Here’s the thing: yeast infections can feel remarkably similar to other conditions that cause the vagina to itch and burn. For example, bacterial vaginosis has almost identical symptoms to a yeast infection. This is why accurate diagnosis is so important.
For example, if you think you have a yeast infection but you actually have bacterial vaginosis, an over-the-counter yeast infection medication will make it worse because it allows the bacteria to bloom even more.
Similarly, food allergies or an allergy to a new soap, detergent or body product can also cause inflammation, itching and burning in and around the vagina – so you want to make sure you know the specific cause before you jump in and self-administer a treatment.
Symptoms of a yeast infection include:
- Vaginal itching and burning
- Vaginal and labia that are red and/or inflamed
- A white, clumpy discharge that’s heavier than normal and often likened to ricotta or cottage cheese
- Pain or stinging while urinating or during intercourse
- A slight odor, that may even smell like yeast (the smell of fresh, baking bread)
You always need to get an accurate diagnosis from your doctor before treating a yeast infection so you don’t unintentionally make things worse.
Ways to Treat a Yeast Infection
Once you have been diagnosed with a yeast infection, there are multiple ways to treat it.
Typically, a yeast infection is treated with an over-the-counter treatment, using a combination of a topical cream and a vaginal suppository – both of which contain antifungal agents. There are a range of effective, active ingredients such as butoconazole (Gynazole-1), clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin), miconazole (Monistat 3), and terconazole (Terazol 3). These come in short- or long-dose form. We recommend taking the longer-dose forms (7 days), rather than a single-dose or three-day as they seem to be the most effective and the most likely to prevent a recurrence of yeast overgrowth.
In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe an oral medication – also an antifungal – that is more powerful than the topical/suppository versions. These can have some more serious side effects (they’re hard on the liver) so only use these in cases where you aren’t able to kick the yeast infection via over-the-counter and lifestyle changes.
Long-course vaginal therapy
If you have a recurring yeast infection (typically, it’s the same infection, scaled back just enough to provide relief and trick you into thinking it’s over, before it builds back up again), you may be prescribed a stronger, long-course vaginal therapy that lasts up to 14-days.
Yeast maintenance plans
In worst case scenarios, where yeast infections simply can’t be stopped, doctors may use what’s called a “maintenance plan,” which involve using vaginal suppositories or an oral fungicide on a more regular basis over the longer haul to keep yeast populations in check.
Treating your partner
Men can get yeast infections too, and men who bake or work in kitchens that use yeast are more prone to them. While doctors don’t recommend treating male partners when you have a first or very infrequent yeast infection, they may recommend treating him if yours are recurring – a sign that the two of you may be passing it back and forth.
You can prevent or minimize yeast overgrowth via lifestyle changes
The more we know about the relationships between yeast and bacteria, the more we’re aware that lifestyle can play a huge part. Women who eat more processed foods and/or sugary foods are more likely to experience yeast infections because yeast love sugar too!
Similarly, women who have been on antibiotics or use anti-bacterial soap may suffer from yeast blooms more frequently because these products kill the good bacteria as well as the bad, making it easy for the yeast to take over. Don’t take an antibiotic unless you absolutely need it, and minimize the use of antibacterial products. In most cases, warm water and regular soap works just fine.
Other things that can help prevent yeast infections and vaginal irritation:
- Minimizing fragranced or perfumed body products, soaps and detergents
- Wearing no underwear or underwear that is 100% cotton for breathability
- Minimizing time spent in tight fitting garments (yeast love a warm, moist environment so the cooler and airier your crotch is, the better)
- Consuming food products that contain probiotics, like yogurt, kefir, naturally fermented foods, kombucha tea, organic apple cider vinegar.
- Be mindful of the connection between new products and vaginal itchiness because sometimes it’s as simple as an allergy or sensitivity to certain product ingredients.
Read our post on Vagina Dos and Don’ts, which includes additional tips that can prevent yeast infections or general vaginal discomfort.
Also, ask your doctor about probiotic supplements that can help to boost the healthy bacteria in your G.I. tract, rectum and vagina. Boosting your immune system and building up the good bacteria is a natural way to keep bad bacteria and yeast in check.
Think you might be suffering from a yeast infection? Schedule a visit with us here at Overlake so we can confirm it and get you back to comfort!