New Dawn Nigeria

Yeast infection: What you should know

Two days ago, in the clinic, I met a young lady that was dealing with recurrent yeast infections. She has already lost hope of a complete cure for her illness.

For years, she has had a vaginal yeast infection. Two years in a row, she has been diagnosed with vaginal candidiasis at least thrice.

There are times she thought her husband is the cause of her predicament. “My husband is not faithful to me,” she said and has a history of sleeping around with other women.

More than once, the husband has been treated for other sexually transmitted infection and she thought her husband is the most likely reason she is now dealing with a recurrent yeast infection.

Worst still, the husband is a Lorry driver and hardly stays in one state for a whole week. Sometimes he travels to the Northern part of the country and stays there for weeks.

So, with a history of promiscuity, it is unlikely that he won’t get involved in the act again. He is Christian, and they have kids. Yet, he finds it difficult to stay faithful to his wife.

Nevertheless, there is little evidence her husband is the source of her problems. In fact, the husband has regularly denied he is involved sexually with other ladies. In fact, from what she said, he claims to have had infections from bad toilet practices.

So, how could she have developed a yeast infection? Could she have gotten vaginal candidiasis from the husband? Are there other causes of a Yeast infection?

Here’s the truth. Yeast infection is not medically classified as a sexually transmitted infection. However, it is transmitted in people who have had sexual intercourse. So, while it is possible the husband may be the cause of her problems, it is rare, as there are other main causes of recurrent yeast infection.

In the end, I asked her a lot of questions and found out the husband was not entirely to blame. Her care for the vagina was poor. She regularly takes antibiotics for her period presuming that it helps with menstrual pain.

So, what is a yeast infection

Most women suffer from yeast infection. If you’ve ever had that irresistible urge to scratch your vulva and vagina, it is more likely that you’ve had a yeast infection. In fact, vaginal itching is the most common symptom.

Having said that, other sexually transmitted infections can cause vaginal itching. So, as always advised, you must see your doctor to identify if you have yeast or not.

About 3 out of 4 women will have had a yeast infection in their lifetime. Even so, some other women will have had multiple infections in a year.

Yeast is caused by fungi medically called Candida Albicans. This fungi naturally resides in the vagina in small amounts without causing an infection.

For vaginal yeast infection to occur, there needs to be a change in the healthy balance of cells in the vagina. There are numerous other kinds of cells that are in the vaginal: the good and bad bacteria, and fungi.

What are the symptoms of a Yeast infection?

If you think you have a yeast infection, here are the symptoms you are likely to experience

1.Yeast infection discharge

One of the most common signs of yeast overgrowth is a yeast infection discharge. During yeast infection, there is a change in your usual kind of discharge. That is, it becomes more thick and clumpy. It may have a mild odor but could also be odorless.

2. Cottage cheese discharge

Another way women describe yeast infection is a cottage cheese discharge. Discharge looks like cottage cheese and its excessive.

3.  Vaginal itching

4.  Vaginal sore

5.  Vulva swelling and pain

6.  Painful intercourse

Why does yeast infection happen?

There are numerous reasons candida infections happen. While most times it is not due to your actions, it could result from bad care of the vagina.

Like already mentioned, the vagina is made up of different kinds of microorganisms. However, within the vaginal flora, the lactobacillus, an acid-producing bacteria dominates.

This acidity of the vagina is crucial to prevent an infection. This is because other harmful bacteria and yeast cells fail to thrive in an acidic environment.

Are you still confused? Let me explain further. The lactobacillus bacteria are like the police of the vagina. Their work is primarily to keep your vagina healthy.

This bacteria, the lactobacillus, produces different kind of acids – Hydrogen peroxide and mainly lactic acid. Because of these acid producing bacteria, the pH of the vagina is always acidic ranging from PH 3.5-4.5

When these vital police bacteria are destroyed, it creates room for other harmful microorganisms to dominate the vaginal flora resulting in different kinds of infections.

When there is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, you could experience several types of infections like bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. When there is an overgrowth of yeast cells, you will have a yeast infection.

Having said this, about thirty percent of women have a high level of yeast in their vagina. If it is not symptomatic, there is no need for treatment.

So, why does yeast infection happen? And can it be prevented?

There are numerous causes of Yeast infection. Some can be prevented while some are inevitable. However, except in recurrent yeast infection, most acute illness can be treated with just over a week medications.

Complicated cases of a yeast infection may require medications sometimes lasting for over six months. Here are the common reasons why a yeast infection occurs

1. Poor vaginal care

Yes, this is one of the commonest reasons young ladies get a yeast infection. They do not know how to take care of the vagina properly.

This could be from various reason, commonly from what they’ve heard from their peers. It makes sense that when you wash anything, it makes it cleaner. So, as expected, lots of ladies wash the inside of the vagina with soap.

Even worse is the kind of soap used. I’ve met a lady that primarily uses Dettol soap to clean the vagina. She believes washing the vagina with “strong soap” is the best way to keep microorganisms down there

She is right though. But unfortunately, she is also killing the good bacteria called lactobacilli that prevent vaginal infections.

Now you may be wondering, if I do not wash the vagina, how then can I keep it clean? Here’s the truth; your vagina does not need you to care for it. It is best you spend more time on other parts of your body. You can clean the outside of your vagina (the vulva), but the inside takes care of itself.

In other words, the vagina is self-cleaning and require minimal efforts from you to make it smell good.

Are you still confused? Let me explain further. You will have noticed from time to time you experience whitish stuff from your vagina. This is called vagina discharge and its mainly produced by tiny glands located at the cervical area.

As this fluid is produced (sometimes watery or thick), it comes downs slowly through your vaginal canal picking up dead microorganism and dirt from your vagina. Hence, keeping it clean.

Therefore, whether you take your bath or not, naturally, your body keeps producing fluid that keeps the inside of the vagina clean and healthy.

So, if you use Dettol soap to clean the vaginal area, its time to stop. Other actions that may cause a yeast infection are the use of vagina sprays, wearing tight synthetic underwears, and vaginal douching.

2.  Pregnancy

Yes, millions of women get pregnant each year. And that necessary to fulfill Gods plan on earth. However, Pregnant women are at an increased risk to develop a vaginal yeast infection.

In the hospital I work, there is hardly any of my antenatal clinic days I do not treat yeast infection. In fact, most studies have confirmed that yeast infection is more likely in pregnant women than non-pregnant women.

In the past, the concept of the reduced immune system was generally accepted as the reason for yeast infection. That is since your baby contain genes from both you and the father, your immune system is weakened to prevent an immune attack on your baby. This weakened immune system was thought to be associated with yeast overgrowth in the vagina causing infections.

Recently, new studies have shown this is not the case, And instead, yeast infection mainly happens because of elevated estrogen during pregnancy and high-level of Glycogen (sugar) in vaginal discharge.

So, if you’ve been diagnosed with vaginal yeast infection during pregnancy, there is nothing to be ashamed of. As already explained, it is outside your control as it is inevitable that you will experience some changes during pregnancy.

3.  Poor use of antibiotics

From time to time, we all get sick. And as usual, we purchase drugs from Patent medicine vendors. These local “chemist” are not Pharmacist. But they claim they are and therefore prescribe drugs to people indiscriminately.

Taking drugs without consulting your doctor can seriously put you at risk. With regards to yeast infection, taking broad-spectrum antibiotics can cause severe vaginal infections due to yeast overgrowth.

So, how is this possible? Yes, we all agree that antibiotics keeps us safe from infections and when taken we feel better. But, there are side effects taking these medications.

Remember, the vaginal have bacteria too. So, when you take antibiotics, which means drugs that kill bacteria, it kills bacteria cells in the vagina.

Thus, both good bacteria and harmful bacteria are destroyed when you take broad-spectrum antibiotics with a resultant overgrowth of yeast cells.

This is the simple reason women get a yeast infection from repeatedly taking antibiotics for long periods. To prevent yeast infection through antibiotics misuse, talk to a doctor first before taking any medication (not a “chemist”)

4.  A weakened immune system

I’ve previously mentioned that a weak immune system can predispose you to yeast infection. This is true.

For people dealing with diseases that affect how their body fights infections, they are likely to deal with recurrent infection of Candida Albicans.

Common diseases that severely affect your immune system are HIV, cancer, and people taking chemotherapy. In these instances, the immune system is weakened and can’t fight infections.

If you have any of the above-mentioned illnesses, see your doctor for help.

5.  Diabetes mellitus

Another reason for vaginal yeast infection is an uncontrollable high level of blood sugar. Diabetes is raised blood sugar levels and can occur in the young, adults and during pregnancy.

People with diabetes a more prone to vaginal yeast infections because of high sugar levels in the vagina which the yeast cells feed on. So, high blood sugar ultimately leads to an overgrowth of vaginal yeast cells thereby causing infections.

How to know you have Diabetes?

There are numerous symptoms of diabetes but most commonly is the frequency in urination. If you find yourself always wanting to pee all the time, it is likely you have elevated blood sugar.

Another way you can tell is the number of times you wake up at night to pee. Personally, I rarely wake up at night to pee, and if I do, it is just once. For people with diabetes, you may find your self waking up frequently to urinate.

Other symptoms are increased thirst, increased hunger, weight loss, and blurred vision. The easiest way to know is through taking a test because there are several reasons you may have frequent urination.

If you have diabetes and have a vaginal yeast infection, keeping your blood sugar under control is the best way to prevent the infection. If you don’t, you are likely to have a yeast infection.

How to prevent yeast infection

We’ve already discussed in details the causes of Yeast infection. To prevent yeast infection, it is simply avoiding the cause. Here are some ways to keep yourself free from yeast infection

1. Be watchful of your discharge.

Yeast infection discharge is common in people dealing with a yeast infection. So, if you think you have yeast, you should monitor your discharge from time to time. Is it now excessive than usual? Does it look and feel clumpy? Does it look like a cottage cheese discharge?

If it does, or you are not sure, talk to your doctor for help.

2. Avoid tight synthetic underwears

Yes, wearing tight panties can have adverse effects on your vagina and can allow yeast cells to flourish. If you want to prevent yeast infections, start with letting your vagina breath. Change your synthetic underwears to cotton panties.

Other ways to prevent yeast infection is taking antibiotics only when needed, changing your pads regularly during your periods, avoiding vaginal douching or use of “strong soap” in the vaginal area. You can learn more preventive tips here.


Our Reporter

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