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 Medical Self-Care: Vaginal Yeast Infections 
 
Yeast infections are the most common type of vaginal infections. Other names for this are Monila, Candida or fungus infection. Vaginal yeast infections result from the overgrowth of Candida albicans which is normally present in harmless amounts in the vagina, the digestive tract and the mouth. Some women rarely have a yeast infection. Others have them regularly. Certain things may trigger them such as:
  • Hormonal changes that come with pregnancy or even before monthly periods.
  • Taking hormones or birth control pills.
  • Taking antibiotics especially "broad spectrum" ones.
  • Taking steroid medicines such as prednisone.
  • Having elevated blood sugar such as found in uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Vaginal intercourse, especially with inadequate lubrication.
  • Douching.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe. They include:
  • Itching and irritation and redness around the external genitalia.
  • A thick, white discharge that looks like cottage cheese and may smell like yeast.
  • Burning and/or pain when you urinate or have sex.


Prevention
To help prevent yeast infections:
  • Practice good hygiene. Wash regularly to clean the inside folds of the vulva where germs are likely to grow. Dry the vaginal area thoroughly after you shower or bathe.
  • Wipe from front to back after using the toilet.
  • Wear all-cotton underpants and panty hose with cotton crotches.
  • Don't wear slacks and shorts that are tight in the crotch and thighs or other tight fitting clothing such as panty girdles.
  • Change underwear and workout clothes right away after exercising.
  • Use unscented tampons or sanitary pads and change tampons and sanitary pads frequently.
  • Don't use bath oils, bubble baths, feminine hygiene sprays, perfumed or deodorant soaps.
  • Don't sit around in a wet bathing suit.
  • Shower after you swim in a pool to remove the chlorine from your skin. Dry the vaginal area thoroughly.
  • Take antibiotics, especially broad spectrum ones such as Keflex, Ceclor, Bactrim, Septra, amoxicillin, ampicillin, etc. only when necessary to treat bacterial (not viral) infections. These promote the growth of yeast.
  • If you tend to get yeast infections whenever you take an antibiotic, ask your doctor to prescribe a vaginal antifungal agent as well or use an over-the-counter one.
  • Eat well and include food products such as yogurt that contain live cultures of "lactobacillus acidophilus".
  • Get plenty of rest to make it easier for your body to fight infections.


Treatment
Treatment for vaginal yeast infections are:
  • Vaginal creams or suppositories that get rid of the Candida overgrowth. These can be over-the-counter ones. Examples are Monistat, Gyne-Lotrimin, etc. or ones prescribed by your doctor such as Terazol or Vagistat, etc. They should be inserted right before you go to bed.
  • Oral medicines which include Diflucan (a pill taken once per episode of infection), Sporanox, Nystatin and Nizoral.
  • Gentian violet, a purple-colored solution applied to the vaginal area.
It is important, though, to make sure that you have the right problem diagnosed. A burning sensation could be a symptom of a urinary tract infection caused by bacteria which requires an antibiotic. Antibiotics will not help a yeast infection. They make them worse.

Trichomoniasis mimics yeast infections.

You should check with your doctor if:

  • This is the first time you have symptoms of a yeast infection.
  • You are not sure that your problem is a yeast infection.
  • If the infection you treat comes back within two months.
  • If the infection does not respond to treatment.
Chronic vaginal infections can be one of the first signs of diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases or HIV/AIDS in women.

Self-Care Tips
To get rid of a yeast infection, try the following:
  • Use an over-the-counter vaginal cream medicine or suppositories, such as Monistat, as directed. These used to be available only with a prescription. Women who have had yeast infections whenever they have taken antibiotics in the past should use this during the period of antibiotic treatment.
  • Douche with a mild solution of 1 to 3 tablespoons of vinegar diluted in a quart of warm water. Repeat only once a day until the symptoms subside, but not longer than a week. Too much douching can lead to a flare up of the infection.
  • Limit your intake of sugar and foods that contain sugar since sugar promotes the growth of yeast.
  • Eat yogurt and other food items that contain live cultures of lactobacillus acidophilus several times daily especially when taking an antibiotic. If you can't tolerate yogurt, ask your pharmacist for an over-the-counter product that contains this beneficial bacteria (lactobacillus acidophilus).


Questions to Ask
Do you have any other symptoms such as vaginal swelling and/or unusual bleeding? Does the discharge have a foul smelling odor? Yes: See Doctor
No
Do symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection worsen or continue one week or longer despite using self-care tips or do they come back within 2 months after treatment? Yes: See Doctor
No
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