Yeast infection also referred to as “thrush” or “vaginal candidiasis”, is a common vaginal infection caused by a type of fungus called Candida. It is the second most common vaginal infection in women.
The vaginal canal has “good” Lactobacillus bacteria, which make up the normal vaginal flora. Small amounts of Candida are found in the vagina without causing any symptoms. However, if there is a disruption to the normal vaginal flora, Candida can overgrow and sometimes affect the deeper layers of the vagina, resulting in symptoms and a yeast infection.
Typical symptoms of a yeast infection include:
Itch in the vulva and/or the vagina
Discomfort (often described as a burning sensation)
Pain or soreness, which may also be more evident during sexual intercourse or urination, similar to a urinary tract infection
Abnormal vaginal discharge which is commonly described as clumpy, curd-like or “cottage cheese”-like, and can be white, yellow, or green in colour.
Read on for yeast infection treatment and prevention. | Image source: iStock
Any disruption to the normal vaginal flora can trigger a yeast infection. Various risk factors include:
Antibiotic ingestion, even for an unrelated infection, because the antibiotics can kill the good vaginal flora, allowing yeast overgrowth
A weakened immune system, which may occur in individuals with poorly controlled diabetes or people taking immunosuppressive medication
Pregnant women are more susceptible to yeast infections due to hormonal and bodily changes
Increased levels of estrogen, such as in individuals taking the birth control pills
Certain behaviours like douching
Is it an STD?
A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD). However, sexual contact can trigger a yeast infection. The use of sex toys and lubricants can disrupt the vaginal flora and result in a yeast infection.
Yeast infections can often be diagnosed clinically based on the clinical history and physical examinations. Your doctor may also do a swab test to confirm this diagnosis to exclude other vaginal infections, as STDs like Trichomonas may give similar symptoms (itching and thick discharge), or can coexist with a yeast infection.
If a yeast infection goes untreated, one may experience worsening symptoms. In some cases, open wounds from scratching can get infected, and additional anti-bacterial medication may be required. Women who experience a first yeast infection are also more likely to have a repeat yeast infection.
Yeast infection treatment options can include oral medication. Image source: iStock
Yeast Infection Treatment
Yeast infections can be treated with antifungal medication. This can either be administered orally (tablets) or intra-vaginally (cream or vaginal pessaries).
In women who suffer from recurrent yeast infections (defined as at least four episodes a year), regular suppressive antifungal medications may be recommended.
Intravaginal boric acid is an alternative to antifungal medication.
While yeast infections may not be fully preventable, you can reduce your risk by avoiding douching, or the use of any harsh soaps or scented feminine care products and opt for loose, breathable cotton underwear. Avoid unnecessary antibiotics that may kill off your good vaginal flora.
Yeast infections are extremely common and treatable, and there is no need to suffer in silence if you are experiencing one.
Dr Grace Huang of DTAP Clinic contributed this article.
Dr Grace Huang is the resident doctor at DTAP Clinic Robertson, a general practice clinic with a special interest in Men’s, Women’s, and Sexual Health. She has a keen interest in Women’s health and wellness medicine. She believes communication is the key to empowering patients through facilitating a better understanding of their own health and medical issues and is always more than glad to address and allay her patients’ concerns.
Some background about DTAP clinic
Established in 2005, DTAP clinics, a pioneer of the GP plus, or “General Practice with Special Interest” model in Singapore, provides holistic and comprehensive medical care for everyone. We provide basic GP services with a key focus in HIV & STD testing and management, Men’s Health (Andrology), Women’s Health, Allergy, Skin and Chronic Disease Management services. Our clinics are located in Singapore and Malaysia. Visit https://dtapclinic.com.
Lead image source: iStock
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