Yeast infections in the vagina: an overview

A healthy vagina has many beneficial bacteria. Yeast is a fungus that lives in the vagina in very small numbers. However, when it grows in large quantities it means that you are suffering from vaginal yeast infections. It is a common infection and usually not serious. However, they can bother you a lot.

What is the cause of yeast infection in vagina?

The most common bacteria present in our vagina are Lactobacillus acidophilus that helps keep other organisms like yeast in control. However, the growth of yeast called Candida albicans causes yeast infection in the inner part of the vagina, and is a threat to our hygiene and safety. This happens when due to some reason the balance of these organisms’ changes. It can be because of intake of antibiotics, pregnancy resulting in high estrogen levels or hormonal therapy, or health problems like diabetes, HIV infection, etc.

What increases your risk?

The risk of acquiring a vaginal yeast infection can increase due to a number of factors like our lifestyle or certain medication, which we may be forced to partake of.  Some of the common factors are –

  1. Antibiotics – Intake of antibiotics can not only impact disease causing bacteria but also cause imbalance between the yeast and bacteria in our vagina as they can kill too much beneficial bacteria and thus lead to growth of yeast.

  2. Immune system problems – Diseases like diabetes or HIV affects our immune system and can also disrupt the normal balance of bacteria and yeast. Moreover, medication like corticosteroid also weakens the immune system, increasing the chance of yeast infections. Pregnant women& new moms too are at a higher risk of acquiring yeast infection due to continuous hormonal shifts that weaken the immune system.

  3. Douching and using hygiene sprays, synthetic talcs or scented perfumes can cause an imbalance within our vaginal pH level, thus making it a breeding ground for yeasts to grow/flourish.

  4. Tight-fitting lowers or non-absorbent lower pants or very fancy underwear which hold in too much moisture and warmth increases the risk of infection.

Common symptoms of vaginal infection include severe itching in genital region; discharge that is white, thick, clumpy and odorless; red, irritated skin around vaginal opening; pain while urinating or when urine touches irritated skin and painful sex. 

Knowledge of vaginal yeast infections are very important as leaving it untreated can lead to higher risk of acquiring many other diseases like Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), etc. Moreover, there are higher chances of getting yeast infections again even after treatment, thus it is advised to take following preventive measures –

  • Having a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nonfat dairy products. Eating food that has lactobacillus organism such as yogurt or acidophilus milk. Probiotic rich foods such as kefirs and other fermented foods are also beneficial.

  • Controlled blood sugar levels can reduce the risk of yeast infections. Make sure you do not have diabetes or any other infection which can cause a disruption in your blood sugar levels.

  • Avoiding the intake of unnecessary antibiotics can also help in preventing vaginal yeast infection as antibiotics tend to change the normal balance of yeast and bacteria in vagina, thus causing growth of yeast. Most common ailments are caused by viruses and popping antibiotics to cure them is basically pointless. It only disrupts the normal balance of bacteria in the body.

  • Keep your vagina clean and hygienic. Avoid the use of scented soaps or other artificial, extremely synthetic products. Wear underwear that keeps your vaginal area dry and doesn’t hold warmth and moisture. (Cotton, comfortably fitting underwear is recommended)

  • While using the loo, always wipe from front to back and not back to front as this may transfer bacteria or yeasts from your anus to vagina or urinary tract.

About the Author

WHL Staff

The WHL staff comprises a group of ladies out to give you exhaustive, practical health tips and resources.