When you experience that all too familiar vaginal itching, burning, and irritation, it could be that you’ve developed a yeast infection. With around 75% of women getting at least one in their lifetime, yeast infections are extremely common and can be unpleasant to experience.
If you’ve had one or multiple yeast infections, you’re undoubtedly wondering what causes them and what you can do to minimize your risk of further infections. Anita Gondy, MD, Saovaros V. Michaels, MD, and Henry Luh, DO, our OB/GYNs at Women's Health Associates of Southern Nevada, Northwest in Las Vegas, Nevada, explain the most common causes, prevention, and treatment tips for yeast infections.
What are yeast infections?
Vaginal yeast infections, or candidiasis, are caused by a change in the balance of bacteria to yeast cells in your vaginal opening. You develop a yeast infection when candida albicans yeast starts multiplying in your vagina, causing an infection to develop.
Symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include irritation, itchiness, a burning sensation, and redness and swelling in and around your vagina. You can also develop a white, thick discharge that has an appearance similar to cottage cheese.
Yeast infections are not usually dangerous, but they can be highly uncomfortable or painful, especially when urinating, during sexual intercourse, or if you’re prone to recurring infections.
Common causes of yeast infections
There are a number of reasons you can develop a yeast infection. Some of the most common causes include:
Antibiotics resolve infections by killing bacteria, but this also means they can kill the healthy bacteria in your vagina. This can upset your vaginal bacterial-yeast balance, leading to a yeast infection.
Pregnancy causes fluctuations and changes in your hormones as you grow your baby. These changes can make you more prone to developing yeast infections while pregnant.
Hormonal changes related to your menstrual cycle or contraceptives
Hormonal fluctuations also are at their highest in the days before you start your period, making this the most likely time in your cycle to get a yeast infection. Taking oral contraceptives increases the levels of estrogen in your body, which also ups your risk.
Having diabetes that is poorly controlled or uncontrolled makes you more likely to get yeast infections.
If you have a lowered immune system, you’re also at greater risk of yeast infections.
Preventing yeast infections
For most women, making a few simple lifestyle changes can help reduce the odds of getting recurring yeast infections. When you are unwell, avoid taking antibiotics unless absolutely necessary to treat your condition.
Additionally, avoid wearing clothes that are tightly fitted around the crotch area, and choose cotton underwear. When your crotch area becomes wet, such as after swimming or getting sweaty, change to dry clothes as soon as possible.
You should also avoid or minimize your use of hot tubs, bubble baths, and douching.
Treating yeast infections
If you develop a yeast infection, our team at WHASN - NW treats your infection with antifungal or oral medications. If you’re pregnant, our team prescribes topical antifungals safe for your baby.
Yeast infections clear up within three days to two weeks. If treatment doesn’t resolve your infection, you get another yeast infection within a few months, or you’re getting yeast infections regularly, our team can prescribe stronger therapies to stop your infections.
If you have a yeast infection or are struggling with frequent yeast infections, call our office or request an appointment online today.