Before you freak out, rest assured that if something feels off with your lady bits, it’s not always an STI. You may just have a yeast infection (sometimes also referred to as thrush). As many as 75% of women will have a one least once in their lives. Yeast infections are not highly contagious and are easily cured. You do not have to have sex to develop a yeast infection, and very few yeast infections are a result of unprotected sex.
What the hell is it?
Yeast infections are caused by the bacteria Candida albicans, a fungus found in the stomach. This bacteria can also be found in the vagina in as many as one in five women. When this bacteria multiplies to abnormally high amounts, the result is a yeast infection. (Men can also develop yeast infections, though it is not as common.)
There are several causes of yeast infections, including pregnancy, hormonal birth control, menstruation (your period), certain antibiotics, unprotected sex, diabetes, stress, poor diet, and weakened immune system. However, in many cases the cause is unknown. Recurring yeast infections may also be a sign of an STI, so it is important to get tested just in case.
The symptoms for a yeast infection can vary from woman to woman, but often include: pain, itchiness, or a tender feeling around the vulva and vaginal entrance, swelling, odourless white discharge (often similar to cottage cheese in texture), redness on or around the vulva, or a burning sensation during sex or urination.
If you think you may have a yeast infection, you should go to your doctor to get tested. Without a doctor’s opinion, many women misdiagnose this problem or fail to fix any underlying issues. Depending on the severity, your doctor may give your prescription medication instead of an over the counter recommendation; another reason it is important not to self-diagnose. Prescriptions for yeast infections generally come in pill form.
If you choose to skip a doctor’s visit or your doctor recommends another treatment, you can purchase medication for yeast infections at most pharmacies. Over-the-counter treatments for yeast infections generally come in one of two forms. The first type of treatment is a tablet inserted into the vagina. This medication will usually come with a wand-like device to help you when inserting the tablets. The second type is a cream or ointment that you apply it to the infected area for up to a week. It is important to abstain from sex until the yeast infection has completely cleared up, otherwise you could irritate it further.
If you find that you regularly develop yeast infections at certain points during your menstrual cycle, talk to your doctor and they can prescribe a pill (fluconazole). If taken a week before your period, this pill can prevent yeast infections.
The best way to prevent a yeast infection is to keep your vagina healthy and happy by:
- Eating a well-balanced diet
- Keeping your genitals dry
- Wear breathable, cotton underwear
- Change out of wet swimsuits as soon as possible
- Change out of sweaty clothing as soon as possible
- Avoiding products that may irritate your vagina, such as:
- Scented soaps and lotions
- Vaginal deodorants and wipes
- Keep things that have been in contact with your anus out of your vagina
- Always wipe front to back after using the bathroom
- Clean sex toys after using them in and around your anus
- Have your partner clean their penis or fingers after engaging in anal play
Yeast infections are relatively simple to treat and cure and can go away within a week if treated properly. If you’re experiencing symptoms, definitely take action!
Facts About Yeast Infections. Canesten Canada. Canesten Global, 2008. Web. 18 August 2014.
Vaginal yeast infections fact sheet. Womenshealth.gov. Office on Women’s Health, 16 July 2012. Web. 18 August 2014.
What is a Yeast Infection? Sexuality and U. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, 2012. Web. 18 August 2014.