Let's Learn About Yeast Infections
With so much stigma and taboos around vaginal health, sometimes women only end up learning about such infections once they get them. That’s why it’s important to educate ourselves not just to learning but also for prevention.
Every single woman is vulnerable to infections - despite her marital status, gender identity, sexual identity, or amount of sexual partners. The vagina is simply a very sensitive area, and the smallest of things could cause an infection. Yeast infections are not STIs.
So, what is a yeast infection?
A vaginal yeast infection is an infection of the vagina caused by an overgrowth of candida, which is a natural type of bacteria that lives in our bodies. Approximately 20% of people with a vagina live with the bacteria in their body but a slight imbalance would cause the yeast infection that makes the vulva the area around the vagina itchy or burning. Other names used to refer to a yeast infection include: “vaginal candidiasis”, “vulvovaginal candidiasis”, or “candidal vaginitis.”
Symptoms of yeast infection?
A yeast infection is one of those with symptoms that are almost impossible to ignore. You don’t have to have all the symptoms to have the infection but the most common symptom is itchiness in the vagina (inner part) or around the vulva (outer part).
Other symptoms include:
Burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina and the vulva
Pain when urinating
Pain during sex
A thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese
Whenever you experience these symptoms it is always important to check in with a doctor to get a proper diagnosis. Never ignore discomforts.
What causes it?
Many things can make your body vulnerable to a yeast infection. Being on antibiotics or on hormonal birth controls can increase the chances, as well as if you douche or use vaginal sprays. It is also common during pregnancy, or if you have uncontrolled diabetes/high blood pressure or have a weakened immune system. That goes to show that just how sensitive the vagina is and how the slightest of things could put you at risk.
Treating yeast infections
Luckily, yeast infections are easy to treat. They can be treated with over-the-counter medications such as creams, pills, or suppositories that you insert into your vagina. These usually have an 80-90% success rate but if symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks it is advisable to see a doctor.
Some people also choose to use some home remedies, the most common being yogurt. Studies suggest that eating eight ounces of yogurt daily with “live cultures could help prevent it, but this is yet to be proven. Another way is to cut down on sugar and gluten to starve the yeast” but again, more research is being carried out on this one.
Is it still safe to have sex with your partner?
Well not exactly, we did say that a yeast infection is not an STI, other than the fact that sex with a yeast infection can be painful, it is still possible to pass it through vaginal sex, oral sex, and anal sex
If your partner is a man, the risk of infection is low. About 15% of men get an itchy rash on the penis if they have unprotected sex with a woman who has a yeast infection. If this happens to your partner, he should see a doctor. Men who haven't been circumcised and men with diabetes are at higher risk.
If your partner is a woman, she may be at risk. She should be tested and treated if she has any symptoms.
Then, how can we prevent it?
If you are interested in lowering your risk, here are some tips:
Do not douche. Douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection.
Do not use scented feminine products, including bubble baths, sprays, pads, and tampons.
Remember to change tampons, pads, and panty liners after 4-6hrs
Avoid wearing tight underwear, pantyhose, pants, or jeans. These can increase body heat and moisture in your genital area.
Wear underwear with a cotton crotch. Cotton underwear helps keep you dry and doesn't hold in warmth and moisture.
Change out of wet swimsuits and workout clothes as soon as you can.
After using the bathroom, always wipe from front to back.
Avoid hot tubs and very hot baths.
If you have diabetes, be sure your blood sugar is under control.
Stay informed, stay in control!