Yeast Infections

Women who have experienced a yeast infection can vouch for just how uncomfortable and miserable it can make your life. Although a yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted disease, it is possible to pass it back and forth between sexual partners. While women are the ones most affected by it, men can also develop a yeast infection. Thankfully, treatment is readily available, both over-the-counter solutions as well as alternative, drug-free treatments.

An Itchy Issue
Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of the Candida albicans fungus. This is a naturally occurring organism that normally lives quite harmlessly in your vagina, rectum, digestive tract and mouth. However, changes in your body can cause this fungus to proliferate in your vagina, leading to a yeast infection. Yeast infection causes include:

  • Using medications that contain steroids
  • Using antibiotics
  • Being diabetic or having elevated blood sugar levels
  • Using the birth control pill or another form of hormonal contraception
  • Using an IUD
  • Hormonal changes due to menstrual cycle or pregnancy
  • Frequently wearing tight pants or pantyhose
  • Douching

Yeast Infection Symptoms
The most obvious symptoms of a yeast infection is the thick, white discharge resembling cottage cheese. Along with this discharge, other vaginal yeast infection signs include severe vaginal itching, burning, and irritation in the vaginal area. These symptoms get worse the longer you go without  treatment.

Although it is mainly women who are affected by yeast infections, it is possible for a man to get a yeast infection, especially if he is uncircumcised. This usually occurs through direct sexual contact. Having a yeast infection during pregnancy is generally harmless. However, if you have a yeast infection during childbirth, it is possible for your child to develop oral thrush. This type of yeast infection occurs in the mouth and can usually be easily treated. However, if you are breastfeeding, it is possible for the thrush to infect your breast, which can make breastfeeding painful and even cause bleeding.

Yeast Infection Treatment
While there are many over-the-counter medications available, it is important to have a proper diagnosis of a yeast infection before you start using these strong medications, especially if this is your first yeast infection. There are other types of vaginal infections, including trichomoniasis, which is a sexually transmitted infection, that have similar symptoms to a yeast infection. Therefore, be sure you definitely have a yeast infection before you start using an over-the-counter medication.

Medications for yeast infections consists of creams and suppositories, both sold over the counter as well as oral medications, which require a prescription. There are different versions of the over-the-counter medications. Depending on which type you purchase, you will need to apply the cream or insert the suppository for one, three or seven days.

If you prefer a more natural solution, then look for acidophilus tablets that help to kill off the yeast. Natural yogurt also contains live acidophilus bacteria (specifically lactobacillus acidophilus). Some women may choose to apply yogurt containing this bacteria directly to their vagina to clear up their yeast infection. Also, you may want to take steps to help prevent a yeast infection from occurring in the first place.

Learn more about yeast infection (candidiasis) with facts and photos at STDs in Color.

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