A yeast infection (also known as vaginal candidiasis) is a fungal infection, affecting three out of four women during their life. The good news is that a yeast infection isn’t classified as an STI and can be treated. In this article, we’ll discuss the causes, symptoms, treatment and risk factors associated with the infection.
Yeast occurs in your vagina naturally along with candida and bacteria. Lactobacillus (a type of bacteria) serves to prevent an overgrowth of yeast, but sometimes the prevention method can be disrupted, and the fungus can travel into the deeper vaginal cells, which causes an infection.
Please note that there is a myth that sex causes yeast infections – this is entirely false.
Numerous symptoms are indicative of a yeast infection. They include
- Vaginal rash
- A burning feeling of discomfort around the vaginal opening, particularly if urine touches the area
- Pain during sexual intercourse. (Read our article, why is it painful when I have sex for more insight.)
- Thick, white discharge with a cottage cheese-like texture
If this is your first time experiencing these symptoms, it’s best to go and see a doctor. He/she will typically prescribe anti-fungal medicines such as tablets, creams, ointments or suppositories.
In order to lessen the risk of getting a yeast infection, it’s advised that you
- Wear cotton underwear that isn’t too tight-fitting.
- Don’t wear tight-fitting pantyhose.
- Refrain from douching (washing your vagina with water and other mixtures of fluids) because this can remove bacteria in the vagina that protect against the infection.
- Don’t use antibiotics unnecessarily (discussed below).
- Avoid hot tubs
The following factors may increase your risk of contracting a yeast infection.
Using antibiotics unnecessarily: Bacterial infections and other conditions can be treated with antibiotics. The treatment kills a range of bacteria and can include healthy bacteria, leading to an overgrowth of yeast.
Uncontrolled diabetes: Women who do not control their blood sugar levels are more susceptible to getting yeast infections.
Compromised immune system: Diseases such as HIV/AIDS cause the immune system to become weakened, and so your body will have difficulty fighting off the infection. This is one of the consequences of having unsafe sex. Always use contraception and get tested for HIV/AIDS as well as other STIs.
Increased oestrogen levels: Yeast infections are more common in women who have higher oestrogen levels. Therefore, women who are on high-dose oestrogen birth control or who are pregnant need to take extra precautions.
How Marie Stopes South Africa will help you
At Marie Stopes, we are committed to providing sexual and reproductive healthcare for women. We offer numerous services, including safe abortion and HIV and STI testing. We also have a comprehensive Women’s Wellness package that provides a variety of essential health checks.
If you need more information about yeast infections, please schedule an appointment at your nearest centre.