Vaginal candidiasis or vaginal yeast infection is said to affect at least 3 out of 4 women at some point in their life. Often misunderstood to be a sexually transmitted infection, it is said that women experience at least two such episodes of it. Though there’s an increased risk of developing vaginal yeast infection at the time of first sexual activity, research also indicates that infections can be linked to mouth-genital contact (during oral-genital sex). 

Medications often treat vaginal yeast infections, however, if you keep developing it time and again, you might need a longer course of treatment. Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr Suhasini Inamdar from Motherhood Hospital, Bangalore explains everything you need to know about vaginal yeast infections in women. 

1. What is vaginal thrush or a yeast infection?

Vaginal yeast infections of thrush are generally caused by the presence of yeast in the vagina. Yeast is a type of fungus. It causes inflammation when there is excessive yeast in the vaginal area. It is normal to see yeast present in the genital regions, but it causes a problem only when there is excessive yeast. Yeast infections come with itching, burning and abnormal vaginal discharge. 

2. What are the common causes that lead vaginal yeast infections?

Yeast infections are very normal and experienced by almost every woman at least once in her lifetime. A few things that might be causing you to experience yeast infections are antibodies that decrease the amount of lactobacillus, pregnancy, poor eating habits, poor hygiene, uncontrolled diabetes, weak immune systems, hormone imbalance and lack of sleep. 

3. How can a yeast infection be diagnosed?

It is very easy to diagnose a yeast infection. You will experience itching, a burning sensation and a change in the colour of your discharge. Doctors determine if you have a yeast infection by looking at the vaginal wall or by taking some of the vaginal fluid and testing it. If you experience infections often it is important that you mention this to your doctor as they will check to see for any other abnormalities and if your immune system is weak. It is also advised for your partner to get checked.

4. Is it true that women who tend to take oral antibiotics & struggle to control their diabetes are at a greater risk of developing this infection?

Yes. Both antibodies and diabetes tend to make your chances of experiencing a yeast infection higher. Oral antibodies do this because they tend to kill certain good bacteria that is already present in the vaginal area causing inflammation, irritation and others. Yeast generally feeds off sugar. When the sugar levels in your body are not controlled, it can cause the yeast to grow which will eventually result in an infection.

5. Can someone develop yeast infection from having sex?

Although it is not sexually transmitted, sex can trigger yeast infections. During sex, the bacteria present in your partner’s fingers or penis can trigger your vagina’s natural healthy ecosystem and result in an infection. Oral sex can also cause infections because the bacteria is spread from your partner’s tongue to your vagina. If your partner has oral thrush, there is definitely a higher chance of you getting an infection as well.

6. Is there any specific diet or lifestyle changes one needs to take into consideration after the diagnosis?

Yes. A change in your food habits and lifestyle can bring about several healthy changes that can result in healthier genitalia. Avoid eating excessive sugar, white flour or glutenous grains, alcoholic drinks and dairy products like whole milk. Stick to consuming plenty of vegetables, protein from fish, eggs, chicken and beef, nuts and herbal tea. These encourage better nutrition in your body avoiding yeast infections.

7. Are hormonal birth control pills associated with yeast infections?

Hormonal birth control pills do not directly induce yeast infections. However, they tend to affect the PH levels and cause dryness in one’s body which can result in you having to face an infection. The first thing to do during this period is to use a lubricant to combat the dryness until you are healed. You can also consume probiotics, switch to cotton underwear, avoid douching, sleep adequately, practice a healthy diet and avoid store-bought vaginal cleansers (water is the best tool to clean your genital areas). 

8. What are some treatment options that are available?

Vaginal treatment can generally be treated at home by increasing your consumption of probiotics, maintaining a healthy diet, practising clean hygiene, avoiding clothes that are too tight and practising safe sex. However, if the yeast infection is too strong or thick you must visit a doctor. Your doctor will advise you either upon medication or medication that can be directly used in your genital area to provide you relief, reduce the inflammation and restore your natural PH.

9. When a woman is pregnant & develops a yeast infection, will it affect the baby?

Yes, it can affect the baby. Yeast infection rarely affects the mother, but the baby can be born with a yeast infection. Most babies just develop a yeast infection in their mouth or diaper area, but more complicated cases can result in babies having to experience serious problems. This is because their immune systems are not fully developed, and it is easy for the yeast to spread through their body which might result in breathing problems or in the rhythm of their heart.

10. How long does it take for a yeast infection to clear up?

For a yeast infection to clear up it depends on how severe the infection is, and the method used to treat it. Usually, they tend to clear up in a couple of days however if the infection is severe it can take up to 1 -2 weeks to clear up. This again depends on the infection, on if it is moderate or severe. It is very rare for yeast infections to clear up without treatment. Over the counter medicine will help a mild infection however it is crucial that you visit a doctor for severe infections before they lead to further complications.

Disclaimer: This is for the general information of the readers. Always consult a Gynaecologist for such specific health problems.