Ask any woman who has had a yeast infection and she will tell you that it’s an even more unwelcome “down there” situation than her monthly friend. Although they are annoying and can be painful, yeast infections are very common, aren’t usually serious and can be easily treated. Here are answers to common questions about recognizing, treating and preventing yeast infections.
Q. What is a vaginal yeast infection?
A. While yeast is a fungus that is normally present in a healthy vagina, sometimes the balance can be thrown off, causing too much of it to grow. Taking antibiotics, having high estrogen levels due to pregnancy or hormone therapies, or having health problems like diabetes or a compromised immune system can cause this imbalance.
Q. How do I know if I have a yeast infection?
A. The most common symptoms are severe and almost constant itching. Other signs include painful urination and abnormal discharge. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s very important that you don’t diagnose the problem yourself, because the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are similar to those of a sexually transmitted disease. To be on the safe side, visit your doctor. He or she can make sure your symptoms aren’t due to anything serious.
Q. How do I get rid of a yeast infection?
A. Most yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter medications, which usually consist of a solution to be inserted into the vagina and a soothing cream for external use. It’s best to apply these medicines at bedtime. Be sure to complete the entire dosage to prevent the infection from coming back. Depending on which type you choose, treatment can take anywhere from one to seven days to complete. If the infection comes back or just won’t go away, ask your doctor about prescription medications.
Q. How can I prevent yeast infections?
A.There are a few things you can do to maintain a healthy balance of yeast in your system. First, wear clothing that breathes – trapping moisture down there makes it easier for yeast cells to multiply. Second, avoid taking antibiotics unnecessarily. Antibiotics kill off “good” bacteria as well as infectious bacteria, altering the balance of yeast in the vagina. Third, stay away from feminine sprays, talcs, perfumes, douches, scented toilet paper and deodorized tampons, as they can disrupt the body’s natural cleansing process. One common misconception is that eating yogurt can help prevent a yeast infection because it contains healthy bacteria that can help keep yeast populations in control. Although there is no evidence to suggest this is true, non-fat yogurt can be part of a well-balanced diet, which is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system and preventing yeast infections.
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