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Vaginal Yeast Infection, aka Vaginitis
Vaginal yeast infections may qualify as the most annoying, irritating and embarrassing health condition to which the female gender is prone.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of women will suffer through one a vaginal yeast infection at some point in life, and they're inconvenient as all get out! Itching, squirming, burning, malodorous misery comes standard and you can kiss your social life goodbye while you're at it.
What are you supposed to do if you have to sit through a meeting at work? What about that date you have to find a way to reschedule? What do you say if someone asks what's wrong? Vaginal yeast infections should always be avoided if at all possible.
As you can see from this photo of the vaginal yeast infection fungus, candida, even though it was grown in a laboratory in a petrie dish, it still has the cheese curd appearance that you hear much about.
If that wasn't enough, such a vaginal yeast infection would also likely present with a strong smell of old cheese.
The bad news is that if you get recurring vaginal yeast infections, you'll probably always have to watch out for them. On the bright side, susceptibility to vaginal yeast infections can be pretty easily controlled once you know what you're doing.
Vaginal yeast infections are caused by a fungus that's pretty easy to get rid of. Once the fungus is gone you can keep the vaginal yeast infection from coming back by controlling your lifestyle and the conditions within your body.
MINI FAQ: Can a vaginal yeast infection disappear on its own? Highly unlikely, and you risk compromising your reproductive ability if you wait to find out.
My vaginal opening feels rough, could it be a yeast infection? Yes it could.
Tampons okay with yeast infection? Is it okay to wear tampons when you have a yeast infection? Probably not, as the tampon may keep the infected blood inside longer, and if it is scented, can aggravate the yeast infection further. A tampon may also be painful to insert during an an active vaginal yeast infection.
Vaginal Yeast Infection Causes
The basic cause of any vaginal yeast infection is that the internal balance of your body changed, creating conditions that are good for the Candida yeast to grow in your vagina.
These yeasts exist in most people's body all of the time as unicellular beings in the intestinal tract and on the skin. However, when bodily conditions change to give the yeast a better environment, it changes into an invasive multicellular form and starts growing wherever it can. You can't insulate yourself from the yeast, it's everywhere, but you can make sure your body stays in balance.
Under normal circumstances, the vagina has a combination of bacteria, moisture level and internal pH balance that keeps rampant yeast infection away.
1.. Vaginal yeast infection can be caused by antibiotics, corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
If you take a course of antibiotics, thus killing off the native bacteria, or you alter the pH balance of the vaginal tissues too far, Candida has a chance to get in and grow. There are a few other medications, such as corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories that can cause the same effects.
If you need antibiotics, there's really no way around taking them.
However, if you know that you're susceptible to vaginal yeast infections you can often start on an antimycotic (aka antifungal) medication at the same time as the antibiotics to kill off the Candida you know is starting to invade.
Don't do this as a preventative if you've never had a yeast infection connected with antibiotics, only if you know that you get one every time you have to take a course. Take the entire course of both medications so you don't breed medication-resistant versions of the infecting bacteria OR Candida yeast.
2.. Vaginal yeast infections can be caused by using deodorizing feminine products
Another way of killing off the natural bacteria in the vagina is using deodorizing feminine products.
The bacteria that are found in a healthy vagina sometimes produce odors that some people find distasteful. While these odors may not be overly pleasant to some sensibilities, they do indicate a healthy set of female genitals.
When deodorizing products kill the odors and the bacteria who produce them, then a vaginal yeast infection has no competition and moves in quickly. Vaginal odors that are truly unpleasant or noticeable much of the time usually indicate a medical problem that needs a doctor, not a deodorizer. Therefore, douches, sprays or washes are not recommended when avoiding vaginal yeast infection.
3.. Altering the ph balance of the vagina can cause vaginal yeast infection
Many women alter the pH balance of the vaginal tissues without ever being aware of it.
Under normal circumstances, the pH level of the vagina is somewhere between 3.8 and 4.5, which is pretty acidic. It's easy to alter with douches, sprays, washes, perfumes, dyes and even semen. Candida, like most yeasts, thrive in a neutral to slightly acidic environment.
The vagina normally maintains a more acidic environment than a vaginal yeast infection can thrive in. However, when irritated or the acidic secretions are neutralized, the pH balance of the vagina can drop enough to let a yeast infection in.
Perfumes, dyes, washes and sprays and vaginal yeast infection
Perfumes, dyes, washes and sprays can all irritate sensitive vaginal tissues and dry up normal secretions. Many irritants can be found in perfumed soaps and even in dyed, perfumed toilet paper. Eliminating these may be a good first step in avoiding vaginal yeast infections.
Douches with an alkaline chemical like baking soda, or semen can directly lower the pH balance.
Alkalines neutralize acids, bringing the resultant area to a neutral pH balance, thus favoring the development of a vaginal yeast infection.
Semen can cause a vaginal yeast infection.
Human semen is naturally alkaline, somewhere between 7.1 and 8.0, in order to protect male gametes (spermatozoa) from the acid environment of the vagina.
Under normal circumstances, semen isn't in the vagina long enough or often enough to really cause a problem, but high sexual activity with direct ejaculation, such as when trying to concieve, can lower the vaginal pH long enough to let Candida in.
In addition, semen has a relatively high fructose level, which a vaginal yeast infection happily feeds on.
Last, of course, if a man has a Candida infection and isn't aware of it, which often happens to men, he can pass it on directly through semen.
Estrogen can cause a vaginal yeast infection.
The last thing that alters the vaginal pH is a high level of estrogen. This occurs naturally during ovulation in order to make the vaginal environment more conducive to spermatozoa. Menstruation (or "mentral" in urban talk) can also alter the pH of vaginal tissues, as can birth control and hormone replacement medication, leading to related vaginal yeast infection.
MINI FAQ: My ovulation feels like a yeast infection! Maybe it is a vaginal yeast infection.
Why does yeast infection repeatedly occurs in the vigina? Obviously a young person. Essentially the infection may not be getting killed off, or maybe your life style is causing the vaginal yeast infection. Please read everything on this page.
4.. Some Chronic health problems, diseases and common medications can cause a vaginal yeast infection.
Last, of course, there are a few chronic health problems, diseases and common medications that can make yeast infections much more likely.
5.. The role of food or drink in causing a vaginal yeast infection
Can beer make a vaginal yeast infection worse?
The yeast used in bread and beer doesn't cause yeast infections, and the yeast in them doesn't make vaginal yeast infections worse.
The Candida yeast and baking/brewing yeast aren't even in the same yeast family and can't survive in the same environments.
In addition, beer, bread and wine that are ready for consumption don't have living yeast in them any more. It's killed off when the alcohol or temperature gets sufficiently high.
However, the complex sugars in alcohol and bread can feed Candida yeasts just fine, so avoiding them during an active vaginal yeast infection is a good idea.
Pooring beer onto a vaginal yeast infection, would just make the yeast infection alot happier.
Vaginal Yeast Infection Symptoms
The symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are reasonably distinctive.
The area usually itches like mad, often painful, and inflammation alongside. Vaginal redness from yeast infection can become very obvious.
Frequent vaginal yeast infection symptoms can also include a white, curd-like discharge that can smell like strong or old cheese.
Sores and bumps around the area are also frequent corollaries. A vaginal opening that's usually smooth and suddenly becomes rough can also indicate a vaginal infection. Keep in mind that women's genitalia are as individual as the women who have them, so a normally rough-feeling vaginal opening is not a indicator in and of itself.
Secondary yeast infections in and around the area and in the mouth can accompany vaginal yeast infections as well.
Pelvic pain can indicate a worsening yeast infection that needs a doctor's appointment. If it gets quite bad then fever, chills, diarrhea, constipation, muscle aches and fatigue can occur as well.
Should the infection produce severe flu-like symptoms, get to a doctor or ER as soon as possible.
Vaginal Yeast Infection Diagnosis
Proper diagnosis of a vaginal yeast infection requires a swab of the discharge or of the infected area.
The swab is swiped onto a glass microscope slide and dyed with potassium hydroxide solution.
Candida infections produce a distinctive branching pattern with dye that can be seen easily under magnification.
Without an accurate diagnosis with a microscope, it's often impossible to tell between yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, herpes simplex, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. Each of these disorders is treated differently, and the medication for one does no good on any of the others.
Misdiagnosis of Vaginal / Female Yeast Infection
Misdiagnosis of a yeast infection is fairly common as there are a number of vaginal disorders that can have vaginal yeast infection symptoms.
Bumps are not a direct symptom of yeast infection, but are often caused by blockage of vaginal glands. This blockage can come from a variety of places but needs to be treated as its own separate problem.
Bumps can also indicate infection with herpes simplex virus.
Sores on vagina from yeast infection are frequently caused by excessive scratching, but again herpes can cause sores or ulcerations as well.
Just to make life a little more fun, bacterial vaginosis also frequently causes discharge and itching, so it's important to get an accurate diagnosis.
Bacterial vaginosis is a condition where the natural bacteria of the vagina start overgrowing their natural bounds. If the discharge is any color other than white, such as neon yellow or greenish, the problem is a bacterial infection and is serious enough to see a doctor over.
Vaginal Yeast Infection Treatments
The two most common over the counter medications (OTC medicines) for vaginal yeast infection are topical miconazole and topical clotrimazole used as vaginal creams and suppositories.
These vaginal yeast infection otc medicines come in a huge variety of brand names, so speak to your local pharmacist to find the best brand for you.
These over the counter medications are specifically antifungals and won't work against bacterial or viral infections, so be sure you actually have a vaginal yeast infection before using them.
If stronger measures are required, prescription antifungals come in a variety of forms including tablet, suppository, cream and vaginal irrigation solution.
Whether you take over the counter or prescription medication, it's important to take the entire course.
If you don't take care of an infection completely, it can turn from a one-shot incident into a recurring Candida infection, at which point it becomes a lot more difficult to treat.
Home remedies for symptom relief such as sitting on an icepack can help with the discomfort from a vaginal yeast infection, but direct application of white vinegar, apple cider vinegar or active culture yogurt are not a good idea.
Vaginal tissues are mucus membranes and as such are easy to irritate.
Any form of directly applied vinegar will do more harm than good.
The active cultures in yogurt didn't evolve to survive in the vaginal cavity. The lactose in yogurt can feed Candida while the active bacteria will just die, so while eating the yogurt can help overall, direct application isn't recommended.
(However, I do disagree with Loni on this yogurt treatment for vaginal yeast infection. My wife was advised to use yogurt by a very old doctor, who has, undoubtedly, sadly passed away over these many intervening years. We found low calorie yogurt seemed to work well. I guess I can't absolutely say why this was a cure, but my guess is, yogurt has ph of about 4.3, roughly the same as a normal vagina. In otherwords, it's acidic, so it alters the ph of the vagina directly to make it inhospitable to vaginal yeast surviving. That's my 2 cents worth, I may be wrong.)
Any medication that kills off the Candida microorganisms will deal with an isolated incident of vaginal yeast infection, but if the underlying conditions conducive to vaginal yeast infection are still present it will keep coming back. This is where at-home prevention really comes in handy. Most people don't have to think about it, but if you're susceptible to repeated vaginal yeast infections then you probably want to pay a lot more attention to lifestyle, hygiene and internal balance than other women.
Vaginal Yeast Infection in Conclusion
If this is the first time you believe you're suffering from a vaginal yeast infection, go to a doctor to get proper diagnosis and then treat it with every resource at your disposal in order to make it a one-time only problem.
If you've had a vaginal yeast infection before, then you can often safely treat yourself at home with over the counter medications and home prevention measures.
Always remember to look for the underlying cause, try and prevent that cause from affecting you again, implement proper prevention techniques and vaginal yeast infections will usually become a thing of the past in no time.
References used for this page on vaginal yeast infection
Odds FC (1987). "Candida infections: an overview". Crit. Rev. Microbiol. 15 (1): 1–5.
Physician's Desk Reference 2006 Edition
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Good luck from: Loni (Researcher and writer ) Donald (Editor and web master).
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