Women are becoming more comfortable talking about subjects that used to have a great deal of stigma behind them, such as periods and sex. However, there are still some topics we women would prefer not to talk about.
Let’s discuss yeast infections. Don’t blush yet because it’s something an estimated 75 percent of women will have at least once. It may be that we are uncomfortable to talk about it because yeast infections are uncomfortable. I’ve had some painful cramps, but having an itch that we wouldn’t want people to see us scratch in public could be worse. Yeast infections happen, and there are ways that you can treat them right away and even prevent them.
WHAT IS A YEAST INFECTION?
Yeast infections aren’t an STI. According to Judith Devorak, APRN, CNP of Olmsted Medical Center, “The yeast that causes it is a fungus named candida. This fungus normally lives in the gastrointestinal tract and sometimes in the vagina.” When bacterial changes happen, an overgrowth of the yeast can occur causing what’s known as a yeast infection.
Those most susceptible to yeast infections are women of child-bearing age. A few of the things that can put you at greater risk of this bacterial disruption are menstruation, pregnancy, diabetes, a weakened immune system and certain medications such as antibiotics. While men can have yeast infections, too, they aren’t as common.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Itching is the most common symptom of a yeast infection. Women with a yeast infection may also notice a discharge that’s clumpy and thick. Other symptoms could include swelling, redness and irritation around the external and internal areas of the vagina that may cause pain with urination or intercourse. It’s important to see your healthcare provider as these symptoms are similar to another common condition known as bacterial vaginosis.
TREATMENT, PREVENTION AND RECIPES
The good news is that treatment options are readily available and only as far as a drive to your closest drugstore. Shari Asfahl, APN-PA from Planned Parenthood, says treatment options vary from prescriptions to over-the-counter options to alternative and complementary medicine options. Over-the-counter options like Monistat can be found at drugstores and offer relief in just a few days. The other option is a medication prescribed by doctors called Diflucan (fluconazole), which is not recommended for women who are pregnant. Shari also shared some complementary and alternative measures to consider for those wanting a more natural path to relief.
Dietary Relief for Yeast Infections
- Cranberries or cranberry juice
- Live culture yogurt several times per week
- Acidophilus capsules: 40 million to 1 billion units per day
- Probiotic: 4 to 8 billion units per day
- Vitamin C: 500 mg two to four times per day
Herbal Sitz Bath or Spritzer
1 tablespoon tea tree oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 cups warm water
Bath remedy recommended twice daily or mix ingredients together in spray bottle.
A yeast infection can be prevented in some cases. We’ve all been advised to limit sugar and alcohol intake, but women with diabetes are at a higher risk for yeast infections.
“Women with diabetes should try to maintain a blood sugar that is not too high,” Judith advises. Avoid using a douche or perfumed cleansing and feminine hygiene products. Our bodies have a self-cleaning vagina. That’s pretty incredible!
TALK TO YOUR PROVIDER
Yeast infections are common and nothing to worry about. If you’ve never had a yeast infection before but think you might have one, always see a provider before starting any treatment to make sure you are properly diagnosed.
Caitlin Summers is a freelance writer and advocate for women’s health.