Yeast Infections: Treatment

Yeast infections cannot always be prevented. However, following certain guidelines may lower your likelihood of developing infections. Yeast grows best in a warm, wet area, and eliminating that environment is your best chance of avoiding infections.

Guidelines for reducing your risk of developing vaginal yeast infections include:

  • Wear loose-fitting garments. Tight clothes (such as bike shorts, panty hose and close-fitting jeans) do not allow air to circulate around your vagina. Body-hugging garb can trap heat and moisture and create the optimal environment for yeast organisms to grow.
  • Wear only undergarments composed of 100 percent cotton or other natural fibers. Such garments "breathe" and are less likely to trap moisture.
  • Do not stay in wet clothing any longer than necessary. After swimming, change into dry clothing instead of sitting around in your wet bathing suit. Remove damp exercise gear as soon as possible.
  • Avoid using irritating soaps, deodorants or sprays in the vaginal area. Steer clear of deodorant tampons and douche products as well. These products may cause a disturbance in the alkaline balance in your vagina and can lead to symptoms of a yeast infection.
  • Utilize good hygiene and toilet habits. Always wipe from front to back after using the toilet to avoid spreading bacteria from the rectum into your vagina.
  • Completely dry your genitals after a shower or bath before getting dressed.
  • Change your protection frequently during your menstrual period. Never leave tampons in for a long period of time as they can harbor bacteria. Also change your sanitary pads or panty liners often to prevent a moist environment around your genitals.
  • Do not wear panty liners every day.
  • If you are diabetic, monitor and regulate your blood sugar. High levels of sugar in the blood can increase the risk of yeast growth.
  • Do not insert dry objects, such as an unlubricated condom or penis, into your vagina. And do not engage in sexual intercourse multiple times each day.
  • Avoid hot tubs, whirlpool spas and bubble baths.

Women who experience several yeast infections a year may want to consult with their physician about certain preventive medicines or foods. Studies have shown that inserting boric acid capsules in the vagina or eating yogurt with live Lactobacillus acidophilus cultures may help prevent recurrent infections by maintaining the proper balance of yeast in the body. Making an effort to control the acidity level in your body may help decrease the incidence of yeast infections.

Yeast Infections: Treatment Options

Yeast infections can be effectively treated with a variety of antifungal medications. These are convenient, inexpensive, over-the-counter treatments that eliminate the condition in a short time. In some cases, you may need to take a medication prescribed by your physician.

The most common treatments for yeast infections are medications inserted directly into the vagina. The medicine may be a cream that you insert with a special applicator or a suppository that you insert and allow to dissolve on its own.

Various topical creams may be used to relieve itching or irritation of the vulva (folds of skin on the outside of the vagina). Oral medications may be necessary, but these can be obtained only by prescription from a physician.

Treatment can last anywhere from one to 14 days. You will usually feel relief from the symptoms within a few days of beginning your treatment. However, you should complete the entire course of treatment even if your symptoms subside. The course is necessary to be sure the infection has been completely cured.

Although many medications for yeast infections are available without a prescription, you should consult your physician if this is the first time you have experienced the symptoms. An examination by a doctor is important to ascertain that the vaginal discharge and discomfort are due to a yeast infection and not a more serious condition, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should also consult your obstetrician/gynecologist before beginning any over-the-counter treatments. There are some medications that should not be taken by pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding. In addition, girls under the age of 12 should be seen by a physician before using yeast infection medications.

You should consult a physician regarding other medications you may be taking and their potential impact on or interactions with common yeast infection treatments. Further, you may need to change your birth control measures during treatment. Some common medications used to treat yeast infections can weaken the latex used in some condoms and diaphragms, making them less effective.

Treatment of your sex partner is not usually necessary if you have a yeast infection. It is rare that the condition is transmitted sexually. However, if a male partner shows symptoms of Candida balanitis (redness or irritation at the tip of the penis), he may need to be treated with an antifungal cream or ointment.

Five percent of women with vaginal yeast infections develop a condition known as recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC). RVVC is defined as having more than three symptomatic vaginal yeast infections over the course of one year. Women who experience RVVC should notify their physician, who will administer tests to determine the possible cause of the condition.

For the majority of women, yeast infections are an uncomfortable but not serious condition. Usually they can be successfully treated with a variety of widely available medications.

Last updated 24 March 2012

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