Vaginal yeast infection

Are you experiencing itching in the vulva or vagina and have odourless vaginal discharge with a cottage cheese appearance? You may be suffering from a vaginal yeast infection (vaginitis).

What is vaginitis?

Vaginitis is an irritating condition of the vaginal mucosa. There are several possible causes, such as:

  • A reaction to an irritant product
  • An allergic reaction
  • An injury
  • An infection with a bacterium (also known as bacterial vaginosis)
  • A sexually transmitted infection (e.g.: trichomonas)
  • A fungal infection (also known as a vaginal yeast infection)

What are the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection?

The symptoms associated with yeast vaginitis usually include:

  • Itching or burning sensations in the vagina
  • White, odourless vaginal discharge
  • Pain when urinating
  • Uncomfortable sexual intercourse

On the other hand, if the following symptoms are present, your vaginitis is probably not of fungal origin:

  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge (such as a fishy smell)
  • Coloured vaginal discharge (e.g.: greenish or grayish)
  • Fever
  • Blood in the urine

It is important to consult a doctor if these symptoms are present.

What are the risk factors associated with vaginal yeast infections?

Vaginal yeast infections are very common. Approximately three out of four women will have a vaginal yeast infection during their lifetime. Some risk factors are:

  • The use of certain medications (e.g.: hormones, antibiotics)
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes

Treating vaginal yeast infections

Because vaginal yeast infections are caused by a fungus, the treatment is an antifungal drug. This treatment can be topical (tablet or cream) or oral (a pill).  If this is your first infection, a medical consultation is necessary to ensure the diagnosis. If subsequent infections occur, with the same symptoms, non-prescription treatment is possible. Your pharmacist may even, under certain conditions, prescribe treatment against vaginal yeast infections.

When is it advisable to consult a doctor?

As stated above, it is necessary to consult a doctor for your first infection. It is also necessary to consult a doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms (e.g.: fever or unpleasant smells), if you suspect a sexually transmitted infection, or if you suffer from repeated vaginal yeast infections.  Finally, consult your doctor if you are pregnant and suspect you a vaginal yeast infection.

Can yeast vaginitis be prevented?

In order to prevent vaginal yeast infections, it is important to avoid vaginal irritation and imbalances in the natural vaginal flora. Avoid heavily perfumed products, tight clothing or synthetic fabrics, strong soaps and vaginal douches.

Probiotics can be an effective option to keep vaginal flora healthy; however, studies that have proven their effectiveness may be limited.  

Consult with your pharmacist if you suffer from frequent vaginal yeast infections.

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