Every day we make a ton of decisions for our body, from what to wear to what we eat, to how much exercise we do. Yet there is one area we hardly ever think about until something “goes wrong”. Yep, we’re talking about that dreaded itch down there. And then suddenly, we find ourselves Googling “What are yeast infections and what can I do about this #*$%^@ itch?” Well, maybe without the swear words in the search box, but you’re sure thinking it!
Indeed, uncontrollable itch is one of the most common symptoms of a yeast infection, which affects something like 75% of women during their lifetime. You might have already experienced it, or you might even be going through it right now (sorry!). The best way to treat yeast infections is to get the basic knowledge right about what you’re dealing with.
Besides itch and irritation in the vagina and vulva, you might also feel a burning sensation, especially while peeing or during intercourse. You might feel pain and soreness when you sit or touch the area. If you take a small mirror and look closely, you might notice redness and swelling, or even what looks like a vaginal rash. One of the more telling signs of yeast infections is what’s left in your underwear – it is very commonly a thick, white, “cottage-cheese-like” vaginal discharge, though without any bad odour. There could also be some watery vaginal discharge. When a yeast infection gets bad, it might even lead to tears and cracks – which hurts as much as it sounds!
One thing that’s assuring to know is that yeast in itself is not actually an evil thing. In fact, our bodies all contain small amounts of yeast at any given time, with zero issues whatsoever. When our vaginal pH levels are normal and healthy, we enjoy a healthy balance of bacteria and yeast, and everything in under control. However, it is when our vaginal pH levels are out of whack that a fungus called candida albicans grows out of control and causes a yeast infection. It’s somewhat like yeast in baking – bread, pizza dough, baguettes – you need just the right amount of yeast; anything more is too much and will ruin your recipe!
What then could possibly cause this unbalance? Some common causes include the use of antibiotics, diabetes, immune system disorders, hormonal changes such as pregnancy, menopause, or on birth control pills or hormonal therapy, or incorrect douching.
It depends. If you know it is a yeast infection, or you’ve been treated for one before, you can easily get antifungal treatments over the counter at any pharmacy. However, if you are unsure, it is still best to get a doctor’s opinion, as yeast infections can sometimes be confused with bacterial vaginosis (a bacterial overgrowth instead of a yeast overgrowth, and which causes a thin discharge with a fish-like odour, instead of a thick white discharge) or even trichomoniasis (trich) which is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a parasite. Knowing exactly what you’re experiencing is always the first step towards getting the right treatment for your condition. Also, if you are experiencing recurring yeast infections, extensive tears and cracks, or you suffer from other symptoms that are not so common of yeast infections, please see a doctor or a gynaecologist!
While yeast infections do not go away on their own without the right treatment, there is much you can do to keep your vaginal environment at a healthy level. For example, keeping your vaginal area dry is of the utmost importance. Avoid wearing tight underwear, stockings, pants, jeans, leggings (or jeggings!) if they increase moisture in your genital area. Wear cotton underwear, change pantyliners often, and do not stay in wet swimsuits or workout clothes for long. Avoid certain feminine products that could affect the pH levels – including certain douches which remove the good bacteria you need to protect from a yeast overgrowth, bubble baths, bath bombs, vaginal sprays, scented tampons and such.
The best way to maintain an optimal pH is not to use any product that isn’t made specifically with the pH levels of your intimate area in mind. Normal body washes and soap are made for only your body, not your genital area in particular. Washing such a delicate area requires a special pH balanced wash, such as Vagisil’s pH Plus Intimate Wash. Yes, it might be a little bit of a hassle to have to change products for different areas but think of all the pain and discomfort you’re avoiding in the long run by keeping yeast infections at bay! You’re welcome!