Most women are likely to have a yeast infection at least once in their lifetime. It can be an uncomfortable experience because of the redness, swelling and itchiness it can cause in the vaginal area, and the thick, yellowish vaginal discharge that occurs. But there is nothing to be embarrassed about as vaginal yeast infection is common and can be easily treated.
Vaginal yeast infection, also known as candidiasis, occurs when there is an overgrowth of the fungus, candida albicans.
“Women who are diabetic, pregnant, under a lot of stress or have been taking antibiotics, corticosteroids and contraceptive pills, are more susceptible to vaginal yeast infections,” says Dr Lee Lih Charn, Visiting Consultant at the Department of Urogynaecology, at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.
“Normally, the body has enough good bacteria to contain a yeast infection. But when the body’s good bacteria is affected, it opens the door to a yeast overgrowth,” explains Dr Lee.
Symptoms of vaginal yeast infection
Some common symptoms include:
- Itching in the vaginal area
- Odourless, thick and yellowish vaginal discharge
- Burning sensation during urination or intercourse
- Vaginal pain and soreness
- Redness and swelling of the vulva
If you notice fishy-smelling vaginal discharge or foul-smelling, greenish-yellowish vaginal discharge, be sure to see a doctor for these can be signs of serious vaginal infections caused by bacteria or a parasite.
Treatment for vaginal yeast infection
A yeast infection may clear up on its own. Oftentimes, vaginal yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal creams and pessaries. Use them for a maximum of seven days.
See your doctor if the symptoms persist. In most cases, you will be prescribed oral or topical anti-fungal medications or anti-fungal vaginal tablets or pessaries to soothe the discomfort. Note that oral anti-fungal medications are not recommended for use during pregnancy.
It may take up to two weeks for the treatment to work, and your doctor may also prescribe the same treatment for your partner to prevent re-infection.
In addition, a proper examination will allow the doctor to rule out serious medical causes such as cervical infection, sexually transmitted disease or uncontrolled diabetes.
7 tips to prevent vaginal yeast infection
- Wear cotton underwear
Candida thrives best in a damp environment. As cotton absorbs moisture and perspiration better, it helps keep yeast infections at bay.
- Practise good personal hygiene
Make sure you wipe from front to back after visiting the bathroom to prevent bacteria from the anus travelling to the vagina.
- Avoid tight-fitting jeans and pants
Stay cool, dry and airy in loose-fitting pants and jeans.
- Keep yourself dry and clean
Wipe yourself dry after a bath or shower. Change out of your sweaty clothes or wet swimsuit as soon as you can. Yeast loves to grow in damp places.
- Avoid perfumed deodorant sprays, scented tampons and vaginal douches
These may affect the delicate balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina and cause yeast infections.
- Relax and reduce stress
Some studies show a link between chronic stress and vaginal yeast infections. Stress lowers your body’s immune system. Exercise, meditation and getting enough sleep can relieve stress.
- Take natural yogurt with live cultures
Antibiotics destroy good bacteria in the body. If you are on antibiotics, be sure to replenish the good bacteria by taking natural yogurt containing friendly bacteria such as lactobacillus acidophilus.
“If you get recurring vaginal yeast infections, it’s best to see a medical doctor for a proper diagnosis,” says Dr Lee.