You run into the bathroom after a long meeting, grateful for some relief after all the coffee you drank throughout the morning. You’ve been uncomfortable for hours with more than just a full bladder though. You’ve had to resist the urge to itch…down there…for what feels like eternity. Just like last week and maybe the month before, you find the culprit in your underwear. Clumpy in texture and chalky in color, it looks like cottage cheese and it sure smells like cottage cheese that’s been in your fridge for too long.
What is going on? If this is a recurring experience for you and it is accompanied by an itching or burning sensation in your vagina, redness or swelling of your vulva, or watery vaginal discharge, you may have a yeast infection.
"Geez again? Here we go..."
Yeast Infections Defined
According to the Mayo Clinic, a vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge, and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva — the tissues at the vaginal opening. An excess of the fungus Candida albicans is responsible for most vaginal yeast infection, therefore providing the formal diagnosis of vaginal candidiasis. Your vagina naturally contains a balanced mix of yeast, including candida, and bacteria, all of which make up your vaginal flora. Bacteria such as lactobacillus act to prevent an overgrowth of yeast. Other strains of candida fungus, including Candida tropicalis, Candida parapsilosis, and Candida glabrata, among others, cause vaginal candidasis. The type of fungus determines your treatment plan.
This wouldn't be a Yeast Infection 101 article without showing a picture of what this discharge actually looks like.
Common Yeast Infection Causes
Several factors cause your vaginal flora to go sour. For some, antibiotic use, pregnancy, diabetes, or increased estrogen levels from oral contraceptive use, for example, may cause an overgrowth of yeast. For others, something as simple as staying in wet or sweaty clothes for too long, or as seemingly harmless as taking a scented bubble bath may cause the vaginal pH to go awry, also leading to an overgrowth of yeast. Sexually transmitted diseases may also cause yeast infections, however, this is not the leading cause of infection.
What To Do If You Suspect You Have One?
With all the sneaky culprits of yeast infections out there, it is difficult to know what to do. While there is no cure for vaginal candidiasis, several patient accessible treatment options are available. Treatment for yeast infections depends on the severity and frequency of your infections. Your doctor may suggest antifungal medications after performing a pelvic exam and testing your vaginal secretions to determine the type of candida fungus causing the infection. For mild to moderate infections, medications may be either prescribed or over the counter creams, ointments, tablets, or suppositories like VeeFresh Boric Acid. Symptoms usually clear within three to seven days. For more severe and frequent cases, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal medication taken daily, followed by less frequent use as symptoms subside.
Don't Be Afraid To Ask Around
Yeast infections and their unpleasant byproducts are often tabooed subjects of conversation. You may be embarrassed, feel like you’re overreacting, or that you’re the only one going through this. You’re not. Yeast infections affect up to 3 out of 4 women at some point in their lifetime, many of whom suffer recurring cases. Don’t just pull up your panties a little higher and suffer through - in fact, doing so may increase your risk of recurring infections! Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and possible treatment options.