Vaginal candidiasis, also called a vaginal yeast infection or vulvovaginal candidiasis, is a common fungal infection that affects the vagina and vulva in women. It is due to an abnormal proliferation of the fungus Candida, usually Candida albicans.
The symptoms of vaginal candidiasis may include itching, burning, soreness in the vaginal area, and a thick, white, clumpy discharge. In a few cases women may experience discomfort during sexual intercourse and urination.
Risk factors for vaginal candidiasis include taking antibiotics or steroids, having uncontrolled diabetes, being pregnant, using hormonal contraceptives, and having a weakened immune system.
Vaginal candidiasis treatment generally involves antifungal drugs that can be administered orally or applied directly to the affected area. In addition, measures such as keeping the affected area clean and dry, wearing loose-fitting clothing, and avoiding irritants like douches and scented products can help alleviate symptoms and prevent a recurrence.
There are several types of vaginal candidiasis, including:
Uncomplicated vaginal candidiasis
This is the most common type of vaginal yeast infection and occurs when there are mild to moderate symptoms that typically go away with over-the-counter antifungal treatments.
Complicated vaginal candidiasis
This type of yeast infection is more severe and may be caused by a less common species of Candida or may be related to an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, HIV, or pregnancy.
Recurrent vaginal candidiasis
This occurs when a woman experiences four or more yeast infections in a year and may require more aggressive or prolonged treatment.
Chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis
This is a rare condition in which Candida infections affect not only the vagina but also other areas of the body, such as the mouth, nails, and skin. It is usually caused by a genetic immune system disorder.
The symptoms of vaginal candidiasis can vary from person to person, but common symptoms may include the following:
- Itching and irritation in the vaginal area.
- Burning sensation during urination or sex.
- Pain during sex
- Redness and swelling of the vulva.
- Thick, white, clumpy vaginal discharge (similar to cottage cheese).
- Odourless discharge
- Rash on the skin around the vulva.
- Soreness and general discomfort in the vaginal area.
Vaginal candidiasis symptoms are observed in few women, not all exhibit these symptoms, and some may have no symptoms. Symptoms of vaginal candidiasis may also be confused with other conditions, such as bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Therefore, it is essential to seek proper medical attention if you notice any of these symptoms to confirm a diagnosis and receive appropriate treatment.
Causes and risk factors
Vaginal candidiasis is due to an increase in the fungus Candida, most often Candida albicans. Candida is a normal part of the vaginal microbiome, but an overgrowth can occur when the imbalance between yeast and the bacterial microbe in the vagina takes place.
Several factors can contribute to this imbalance, including:
Taking antibiotics can kill off the bacteria that usually keep the yeast population in check.
Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those that occur during pregnancy, can alter the vaginal environment and increase the risk of vaginal candidiasis.
Immune system suppression
High blood sugar levels can create an environment in which yeast can thrive.
The use of hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills or patches, can alter the vaginal environment and increase the risk of vaginal candidiasis.
Although not considered a sexually transmitted infection, sexual activity can introduce new bacteria and disrupt the balanced vaginal microbiome, increasing the risk of vaginal candidiasis.
Tight or synthetic clothing
Wearing tight or non-breathable clothing can create a warm, moist environment that promotes the growth of yeast.
Other factors that can contribute to the development of vaginal candidiasis include using scented products in the vaginal area and poor hygiene.
It's important to note that not everyone with these risk factors will develop vaginal candidiasis, and some may develop the infection without any known risk factors.
Vaginal candidiasis is typically diagnosed through a combination of patient symptoms examination and laboratory tests.
- Some common symptoms of vaginal candidiasis include Vaginal itching and burning, swelling, and redness of the vulva, abnormal vaginal discharge that is thick, white, and odourless, and pain or discomfort during intercourse or urination.
- To confirm a diagnosis of vaginal candidiasis, a healthcare provider may perform a pelvic exam and take a sample of vaginal discharge for laboratory testing. The sample may be examined under a microscope or sent to a laboratory for a culture to determine the presence of Candida yeast.
The following are some treatment options for vaginal candidiasis:
Over-the-counter antifungal creams or suppositories
These are available without a prescription and are typically used for 1-7 days, depending on the severity of the infection.
Prescription antifungal medications
These may be more effective than over-the-counter options and are available as pills or creams. Some common prescription medications include fluconazole, clotrimazole, and miconazole.
Some people find relief from using natural remedies such as probiotics, tea tree oil, garlic, and boric acid. However, it's important to talk to a healthcare provider before using any natural remedies, as they may not be safe or effective for everyone.
Making some lifestyle changes may also help prevent or treat vaginal candidiasis. This includes avoiding tight-fitting clothing, avoiding douching, and practicing good hygiene.
It's essential to consult with an experienced healthcare provider if you suspect a yeast infection or if your symptoms persist after treatment. They may recommend additional testing or treatment options.
Do's and Don'ts
Here are some dos and don'ts to follow if you have vaginal candidiasis:
|Consult your healthcare provider
It's important to seek medical advice if you suspect a yeast infection. Your healthcare provider can confirm the diagnosis and recommend the appropriate treatment.
|Use douches or other feminine hygiene products
These products can disrupt the natural balance of microbes in the vagina and make it easier for yeast to grow.
|Use prescribed medications
Your healthcare provider may prescribe antifungal medications to treat your yeast infection. Make sure you use them as directed and complete the entire course of treatment.
|Wear tight-fitting clothing
Tight-fitting pants and underwear can trap moisture and create a warm, moist environment that is ideal for yeast growth.
|Keep the vagina clean and dry
Avoid using scented products, such as soaps and bubble baths, which can irritate the vagina. Instead, wear cotton underwear and change them regularly to keep the area dry.
|Use antibiotics unnecessarily
Antibiotics can kill the beneficial bacteria that normally keep yeast in check, making it easier for yeast to grow.
|Practice safe sex
Using good quality condoms during sexual intercourse is beneficial to prevent the spread of yeast infections.
|Engage in activities that can lead to increased moisture in the vaginal area
This includes prolonged sitting, wearing wet clothing, or using hot tubs or saunas. Moisture can create an ideal environment for yeast to grow.
Care at Medicover Hospitals
At Medicover, we have the best team of Gynecologists who work together to provide treatment for vaginal candidiasis with utmost precision. Our highly skilled and experienced healthcare team utilizes the latest diagnostic techniques and advanced medical approaches to treat and prevent the recurrence of vaginal candidiasis.