If you suffer from a constant itch down there, you are not alone. This genital annoyance affects nearly 75% of adult women at least once in their lifetime.
Why does yeast infection happen?
The infection is caused by a yeast – candida albicans – that is normally present in small amounts in the vagina, mouth, the digestive tract and on the skin without usually causing disease or symptoms.
Approximately 25% of women without the thrush disease or symptoms have this organism present. It becomes a problem only when there’s an overgrowth in the yeast. And overgrowth happens only when the balance of such microorganisms in these areas is disrupted.
Favourable conditions for yeast growth (risk factors):
- Continuous moistness
- When you are on antibiotics / undergoing chemo which causes other protective bacteria to die off
- When your immune system is lowered (usually in a pregnancy or due to obesity or diabetes)
When does it happen?
Peak incidence occurs between the ages of 20 to 40. However, about 10-20% of women never show any symptoms despite having a yeast infection.
Symptoms you may have a yeast infection:
- Painful itchy rash in the genital region and moist skin folds
- Small red spots developing on the rash
- Skin may start scaling
- Vaginal discharge resembling cheese
- Incessant itching
- Painful burning sensation from scratch marks (thanks to the itch)
Get rid of your yeast infection (using meds)
The most common treatment for vaginal candidiasis would be anti-fungal treatment. These can be obtained over the counter at most pharmacies. If one type doesn’t work, there are many alternatives available, although some may require a doctor’s prescription. Remember to check with your doctor and pharmacist.
Oral medication to treat the infection would usually be either flucanazole or itracanazole. Medication can also be administered via the vaginal route – with choices available including cotrimoxazole, econazole, butoconazole or nystatin. (can usually be obtained through a prescription)
Get rid of your yeast infection (naturally)
If you want to do it the non-drug route, it isn’t all that difficult. Here are 13 tips:
- Practise good hygiene and avoid moistness, especially around skin folds and private areas. Avoid staying in wet swimsuits or exercise clothing for long periods of time and wash them after each use.
- Use loose-fitting, natural fibre underwear and apparel. Cotton material is best as it promotes airing and helps keep the skin area dry.
- Avoid silk or nylon because these materials are not very absorbent and restrict air flow.
- Use pads and not tampons, change them often (every four hours).
- To clean the genital area, avoid soap and rinse with water only.
- Avoid using feminine hygiene sprays, fragrances, or powders in the genital area.
- Avoid usage of topical irritants such as antiseptics as they irritate skin already infected by candida.
- Sitting in a warm, but not hot, bath may help ease your symptoms.
- Don’t douche after your period or sex as it may worsen your vaginal discharge. Douching removes healthy bacteria lining the vagina that protect against infection.
- Eat yogurt with live cultures or take lactobacillus acidophilus tablets when you are on antibiotics to prevent a yeast infection.
- Avoid foods with a high carbohydrate content – rich in yeast or sugar – until symptoms have disappeared.
- Avoid sex during the treatment period as the infection can spread or symptoms may worsen.
- Use a condom during treatment and for a short period after to prevent infection. Your partner should also get treatment.
Note: Your yeast infection may be highlighting bigger health problems
Yeast infections are usually more of an annoyance than a medical emergency. However, if you’ve never had these symptoms before, the infection may be a warning sign of other health problems.
Chronic or recurrent infections may occur if the underlying medical condition is not addressed. It is important for your doctor to check for diseases that can lead to yeast infections, such as diabetes.
While the candidiasis needs proper treatment on its own, you may also contract another infection from cracked skin due to excessive scratching. Seek immediate medical care for high fever, severe pelvic or abdominal pain, persistent nausea and vomiting.
In rare instances, your doctor could become concerned with repeat infections that occur immediately after treatment or a yeast infection that does not respond to any treatment – and check if this resistance could indicate an early sign of HIV infection.
So the best thing to do when you’re scratching non-stop? See a doctor. Don’t wait.
Yeast infections are super common and all ladies deal with it at one point or another. Help your fellow Malaysian girls by sharing your experience in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Edited by: The HealthWorks Team
Adapted from: “Understanding Vaginal Candidiasis” by Dr Khoo Kong Beng, Obstetrician & Gynecologist