Despite the best intimate hygiene, women do feel a sense of itchiness and irritation in their private parts. Chances are they have a vaginal yeast infection, a type of vaginitis also called vaginal candidiasis which affects up to 3 out of 4 women at some point in their lives. The vagina naturally has a balanced mix of yeast that includes the fungus candida and lactobacillus bacteria which produce acid to keep the yeast overgrowth in check. When the balance is disrupted, candida causes vaginal yeast infection.
Though it is not sexually transmitted and can infect non-sexually active women, the fungus can spread through oral-genital contact. Typical symptoms range from mild to moderate:
- Itching and irritation at the tissues at the vulva which can get worse to the stage of cracks and tears
- Burning sensation while urinating or sexual intercourse
- Tender and sore vulva
- Vaginal pain and inflammation
- Vaginal rashes
- Vaginal discharge which is watery or thick, white and odor- free like cottage-cheese
Complications of yeast overgrowth happen due to antibiotic use, pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes, and a weakened immune system due to medication or conditions like HIV, oral contraception or hormone therapy.
See a doctor if you suspect a yeast infection and if over-the-counter antifungal treatment is not healing you enough and more symptoms show up. The doctor will ask questions and seek answers thoroughly right from complete medical history, around personal intimate hygiene, perform a pelvic examination and test a sample of vaginal secretions.
Medications effectively treat yeast infections. If serious, recurrent and complicated, then a longer treatment and maintenance plan is usually the drill. The doctor will recommend –
- A vaginal therapy or antifungal regimen of creams, ointments, tablets and suppositories for 3-7 days. Possible side-effects include slight burning and irritation, besides alternate forms of birth control as condoms and diaphragms could be compromised due to the oil-based creams.
- A one-time single or multi-dose oral antifungal medication to manage severe symptoms, not recommended during pregnancy.
- For recurrent infections, the doctor will prescribe medication to prevent yeast overgrowth and future infections as part of maintenance therapy.
- The sex-partner may not require treatment for yeast infection but in recurrent cases, he will be asked to check for symptoms of a genital yeast infection called balanitis or advised to use condoms during intercourse.