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Yeast: not just for bread

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Yeast: not just for bread

I know this is not going to be everyone's favorite BUT it is something that affects a lot of women...and can affect men too!!  3 in 4 women experience candidiasis (a yeast infection) at least once in their lifetime and it causes itchiness, discharge, and some discomfort.  Men can get a similar rash on their penis, not as a intense as a womens yeast infection, and not sexually transmitted, and is more likely to be a problem in men that are immunosupressed (chronic illness, after a transplant, etc) or with an HIV infection.  Although, yeast infections can be transmitted through oral-genital sex (either partners infection can infect the other).  It's a bummer that the vagina is a warm, dark place, where yeast just loves to grow BUT there are plenty of ways to ensure that this doesn't happen to you!

What are the symptoms?
-Itchiness and irritation in the vulva and in the opening of the vagina
-Burning sensation during sex and while peeing
-Vaginal pain and soreness
-Thick, white odor-free discharge that looks like cottage cheese

What are the causes?
-Antibiotic use can cause the good bacteria to die and change the pH in your vagina (allowing for yeast to grow)
-High blood sugars in a diabetic
-From vaginal changes (douching, excessive sex, lack of lubrication)
-Impaired immune system (as listed above)
-Pregnancy (high estrogen levels)

What are risk factors?
-Sex without lubrication
-Antibiotic use
-Uncontrolled blood sugar levels
-Impaired immune system

What do you do if you think you have a yeast infection?
You can buy an OTC Vagisil testing kit that will tell you if your symptoms are actually a yeast infection (vs. another STD) and if you DO have a yeast infection, you can then buy an OTC yeast infection treatment like Monistat (miconazole) or Lotrimin (clotrimazole)one day treatment or the generic equivalent.  If that doesn't relieve symptoms, or if this is the first time you are having these symptoms, I suggest going to see your HCP.  Your HCP can do a pelvic exam, take a swab to ensure that your symptoms are from a yeast infection, and suggest the best treatment for you, which could be a one time treatment of an oral Diflucan (fluconazole).  Plus, some people get recurrent infections (due to risk factors above) and your HCP can help to come up with a plan on ways to prevent them.  For men, the best treatment is Lotrimin or Monistat creams directly on the penis and the symptoms should go away within days.  Also, it is best to abstain from sex while you have symptoms and are being treated.

Are there any alternative treatments?
Lactobacillus, a probiotic found in many yogurts, have been found to help treat yeast infections when taken orally or place intravaginally; some small studies have shown that yeast cultures are decreased and symptoms are diminished.  A few treatments that are said to work, but have yet to be studied are: vinegar (white) douches, tea tree oil cream, and garlic vaginal suppositories.  Honestly, I would prefer to try the yogurt, as when I take antibiotics, I ALWAYS increase my yogurt intake to prevent a yeast infection, and I couldn't imagine walking around with garlic in my vagina... To each his/her own, and I appreciate all sorts of alternative therapies, but I feel like messing with the pH of your vagina even more isn't really the best strategy (vinegar douche) and the tea tree oil will have a similar effect.  I think that the yogurt treatment is the best alternative, along with being cheap, and easily available.

The best way to prevent?
-Avoid scented pads & tampons
-Avoid bubble baths and feminine hygiene products (feminine deoderant sprays, etc)
-If you are prone, wear cotton underwear and loose fitting clothes (in breathable/natural fibers- like cotton)
-Change out of wet clothes or bating suits as soon as possible

And remember, if you (or your partner) have an active yeast infection, abstain from being sexually active until the infections have been treated, and if you are having these symptoms for the first time (man or woman), it is best to go see your HCP and discuss the infection and treatment options.  Plus, this is nothing to be embarrassed about, and HCP's see this all the time!!

Yours in Good Health


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