What is a vaginal yeast infection?
A vaginal yeast infection is a very common infection that causes irritation of the vagina and the area around it. They are caused by overgrowth of Candida albicans. Small amounts of this yeast are always in the vagina but if the conditions in your vagina change to allow yeast growth, they can multiply quickly and cause a vaginal yeast infection. Many things can raise your risk of a vaginal yeast infection but the most common cause is a weakened immune system. This can be due to stress, lack of sleep, illness, poor eating habits, pregnancy, having your period and taking certain medicines, including antibiotics.
How common are yeast infections?
They are very common. As many as 3 out of 4 women will experience a vaginal yeast infection at some point and many will experience two or more yeast infections in their lives. The good news is that they are easily treated.
How do I know if I have it?
Extreme itchiness in and around the vagina is usually the first and most common symptom of a yeast infection. Other symptoms include burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina and the vulva; pain when passing urine; pain during sex; soreness; a thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese and does not have a bad smell; or a rash on the vagina. You may only have a few of these symptoms, but you should see your Doctor to confirm it is a yeast infection. The symptoms are similar to those of certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you need to make sure you have a yeast infection and not something more serious. If you've had vaginal yeast infections before and you recognize the symptoms, ask your Doctor about using over-the-counter medicines to treat it.
How can I avoid yeast infections?
To help prevent vaginal yeast infections, you may want to avoid douches and scented hygiene products, change tampons and pads often during your period, avoid tight underwear, wear cotton underwear, keep the area dry (change out of sweaty exercise clothes) and avoid hot tubs and very hot baths. If you get repeat yeast infections, talk to your Doctor, who might prescribe longer term medicines.
Is it safe to use over-the-counter medicines for yeast infections?
Yes, but always talk with your Doctor before treating yourself for a vaginal yeast infection, especially if you are pregnant, have never been diagnosed with a yeast infection or keep getting yeast infections.Yeast infections are often treated with antifungal medicines that come as oral tablets, creams and ovules that you insert. These products can be bought over-the-counter. You could try Life Brand Clotrimazole 2% cream or the Miconazole 3 Combipacks for 3 day treatment therapies. Now that it is available without a prescription, many women use Fluconazole, a convenient single dose tablet that you take by mouth. You can find Life Brand Fluconazole -150 Tablets at your local store.
Some creams and inserts may weaken condoms and diaphragms. Always read and follow the directions carefully. If you have questions, just ask your Pharmacist – they are there to help.