Dr. Victor Emanuel MD

Dr. Victor Emanuel MD

EDITOR’S NOTE: Health Talk has been moved from its normal Wednesday slot to Friday.

It will soon become apparent why it’s important that I discuss this topic. Few women have been or will be spared the nuisance of a yeast infection.

The most common symptom of a vaginal yeast infection: Itching

If you have a vaginal yeast infection, you’re most likely to experience itching in the vaginal area. Other symptoms include burning sensation, soreness, pain during intercourse and or during urination, and a thick, white or cream, vaginal discharge.

How many women get it?

This is why I said at the top that this topic is important for women. About 75% of women will have a yeast infection at some point, and almost half (50%) will have two or more.

What causes yeast infections?

Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida albicans, not by bacteria. The fungus is usually present in the vagina, as well as the mouth and digestive tract and on the skin. But it can overgrow in certain conditions.

Are yeast infections sexually transmitted?

The truth is that now a vaginal yeast infection isn’t considered a sexually transmitted infection, but health experts are unsure whether yeast can be transmitted between partners. A woman may spread the infection to a female partner, and about 12% to 15% of men get an itchy rash on the penis after unprotected sex with an infected woman. Uncircumcised men have a greater risk of developing a rash.

Most women who buy over-the-counter medication to treat a vaginal yeast infection don’t have the infection.

This applies to about 66% of women who buy these medications. If you suspect you have a yeast infection but aren’t sure, see a doctor. If your symptoms are caused by a sexually transmitted disease and not a yeast infection, leaving it untreated can lead to potentially serious complications. Ask your doctor before treating yourself for a yeast infection if you are pregnant, have never been diagnosed with a yeast infection, or get recurrent yeast infections.

What about douching?

Most doctors recommend that women not douche at all. Douching changes the acidity level of the vagina and the balance of organisms that live in it. Wash only the outside of the vagina with warm water and mild soap.

How do you prevent a vaginal yeast infection?

You can reduce your chances of getting a yeast infection by wearing cotton panties, which are cooler than synthetic panties and won’t trap sweat; avoiding douches and feminine sprays, which can be irritating; avoiding hot tubs or very hot baths; changing tampons or pads often during your periods; and avoiding tight panties, pantyhose, and jeans.

Is eating yogurt an effective treatment for a vaginal yeast infection?

The answer is no. Some types of yogurt contain dietary acidophilus (lactobacillus acidophilus), which is a type of “friendly” bacteria that lives in the digestive, urinary, and genital systems. But there is not enough scientific evidence to say that yogurt effectively treats or prevents them.

What increases your chances of getting a vaginal yeast infection?

Certain medications – including birth control pills, some antibiotics, (for some women, any antibiotic) and steroids – can change the acidic balance of the vagina and encourage the growth of yeast, which can lead to a vaginal infection. Antibiotics can also tip the balance toward overgrowth of yeast by eliminating the “normal” bacterial population of the vagina.

Do women get yeast infections after menopause?

Yes, they do. Menopause causes hormonal changes, which can affect the balance of yeast or bacteria in the vagina and lead to a yeast infection.

Recurrent yeast infections may be related to an underlying medical condition

This is true. A recurrent yeast infection is defined as four or more infections in one year. Recurrent yeast infections may be related to other medical conditions, such a diabetes, or HIV, and may require a doctor’s care. Not a medical condition, but pregnancy also predisposes women to yeast infections. Again, it’s a hormone thing.

A word on treatment

It used to be that treatment involved inserting a vaginal tablet nightly for 14 nights, then, it became one vaginal tablet for six nights; then one tablet for three nights. Now you can insert one vaginal tablet a single night. Better yet, many women respond to a single oral capsule, without the inconvenience of the vaginal insertion.

I hope it’s been interesting. I know a lot of questions have been answered for a lot of women.

Take care and see you next week.