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Vaginal yeast infection: Know the symptoms, causes and treatment

Vaginal yeast infection can be annoying and very difficult to deal with. While over the counter treatment may alleviate your symptoms, it is essential to know everything about this infection for a better treatment.
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Here's all you need to know about yeast infection. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock.
Aayushi Gupta Updated: 26 Mar 2024, 10:28 am IST
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Medically Reviewed by

A yeast infection, an often misunderstood condition, can subtly disrupt one’s daily life by causing discomfort and irritation. Due to the similar symptoms with other infections, people get confused and find it difficult to deal with it. Hence, it is essential that you know everything about it. Normally, a healthy vagina contains bacteria and some yeast cells. But when this balance is disrupted, yeast cells multiply, leading to itching, swelling, and irritation. It is one of the most common types of genital infections. Here are its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What causes a yeast infection?

Yeast infection, medically known as candidiasis, are primarily caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida, most commonly known as Candida albicans. Several factors can contribute to this overgrowth of this bacteria, resulting in a yeast infection, including:

1. Antibiotics: These medications can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the body, allowing yeast to proliferate.
2. Weak immune system: A weakened immune system, due to factors such as illness, stress, or certain medications, can make the body more susceptible to yeast infections.
3. Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those experienced during pregnancy, menstruation, or while taking birth control pills, can create an environment conducive to yeast overgrowth.
4. High sugar intake: Excessive consumption of sugary foods and beverages can fuel yeast growth.
5. Poor hygiene: Improper hygiene practices, especially in the genital area, can increase the risk of yeast infections by creating a warm, moist environment ideal for fungal growth.

Also Read: Beware of these 6 common causes of vaginal yeast infection

What are the symptoms of yeast infection?

A yeast infection, caused by the overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans, can cause several symptoms, which may range from mild to moderate:

  • Itching, irritation, and soreness in the vagina and vulva
  • Discomfort during urination and intercourse
  • Thick, white, watery vaginal discharge
  • Burning sensation while urinating and having sex
  • Vaginal rashes
  • Vaginal pain
  • Redness and swelling around the vulva

While yeast infection primarily affects women, men can also develop symptoms, such as itching or irritation on the penis.

When should you see a doctor?

You should see a doctor for a yeast infection if:

  • You are experiencing it for the first time
  • Symptoms are severe or unusual
  • You’re pregnant
  • You’re unsure if it is a yeast infection
  • You have a recurring infection
  • You’ve tried over-the-counter medication but the condition is not improving
Yeast infection
A yeast infection must be treated right. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Additionally, if you are struggling with digestive problems and have any underlying health condition, such as diabetes or a weakened immune system, seeking medical attention is advisable. Your healthcare provider can help treat symptoms that may persist or worsen if left untreated.

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Treatment of yeast infection

Treatment for yeast infection depends on the type and severity of the infection.

Simple yeast infection

For simple cases, over-the-counter antifungal medications such as creams, ointments, or suppositories containing clotrimazole, miconazole, or tioconazole are often effective. These treatments work by killing the fungus and inhibiting its growth. They are typically applied directly to the affected area, usually the vagina for women or the penis for men, for several days to a week, as directed on the product packaging. Moreover, over-the-counter medications such as butoconazole (Gynazole), clotrimazole (Lotrimin), miconazole (Monistat), terconazole (Terazol) and fluconazole (Diflucan) are also recommended.

Also read: UTI vs yeast infection: How can you tell the difference?

Complicated yeast infection

In more complicated cases, such as recurrent or severe yeast infection, a prescription of antifungal medications may be necessary. These medications are available in oral form, such as fluconazole, or as stronger topical creams or suppositories prescribed by a healthcare provider. Oral medications are usually taken as a single dose or in multiple doses over the course of several days, while topical treatments are applied for a longer duration.

Home remedies for yeast infection

Managing yeast infection can be annoying and uncomfortable. While you may take help from your healthcare provider, you can also try these 7 home remedies to manage yeast infection at home:

1. Yogurt

Probiotic-rich yogurt containing lactobacillus bacteria may help restore the balance of good bacteria in the body, potentially reducing yeast overgrowth. You may consider applying plain, unsweetened yogurt topically to the affected area or consuming it orally for relief.

Also read: Is it safe to use yogurt for yeast infection?

body yogurt
Have you heard about using yogurt to treat a yeast infection? Image courtesy: Freepik

2. Boric acid capsules

Boric acid capsules can work for women suffering from the infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest a dosage of 600 mg of boric acid in a capsule inserted vaginally once a day for 3 weeks. This is known as suppression therapy. Before purchasing any suppositories, consult with a doctor.

3. Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil possesses antifungal properties and may help alleviate yeast infection symptoms when diluted and applied topically to the affected area, according to research. However, undiluted tea tree oil can irritate, so it should always be diluted before use.

4. Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids, including lauric acid, which have antifungal properties. Applying coconut oil topically to the affected area may help soothe the itching and irritation associated with this type of infection.

Also read: Can you use baking soda to treat yeast infections? Let’s find out

5. Essential oil of oregano

According to a study, oregano oil is believed to have antifungal properties that can help combat this type of vaginal infection. Diluted oregano oil can be applied topically to the affected area, but it should be used cautiously as it can cause skin irritation.

6. Apple cider vinegar

While there is limited scientific evidence to support its effectiveness, some people use diluted apple cider vinegar as a natural remedy for yeast infection. It is often diluted in water and used as a vaginal rinse or added to bathwater. You may consult with your doctor before using it.

Apple cider vinegar for skin
Apple cider vinegar can help with a vaginal infection. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

7. Vitamin C

Vitamin C supplements may help prevent recurrent these infections by boosting the immune system. Consume vitamin C-rich foods or supplements to support overall vaginal health.

Tips to prevent yeast infection

  • Keep the genital area clean and dry to prevent yeast overgrowth.
  • Opt for cotton underwear to allow air circulation.
  • Steer clear of scented soaps, douches, and feminine hygiene sprays.
  • High sugar consumption can feed yeast, so reduce sugar in your diet.
  • Moist environments encourage yeast growth, so avoid wearing wet swimwear or sweaty workout clothes for a longer period of time.
  • Drinking plenty of water helps flush out toxins and maintain overall vaginal health.
  • Tight-fitting clothing can create a warm, moist environment conducive to yeast growth, so opt for loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
  • Use condoms during sex to prevent the spread of infection and minimise the natural balance of vaginal flora.

Always consider consulting a doctor, if experiencing recurrent infection or severe symptoms.

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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