‘Tis the season for curdled vaginas. Gross, right? But it’s so common. 3 out of 4 women will have a vaginal yeast infection. It commonly affects a wide range of females from 14-60. Female children are also at risk but it is not as common.
Many women complain of extreme vaginal itching and a thick white discharge resembling cottage cheese or curdled milk. Other symptoms often include redness and inflammation of the vulva and vagina. You can also have an unpleasant odor. Some of my patients actually describe it as a “yeasty smell”. It is also not uncommon to experience pain or burning with urination and sex.
Of course you can get a yeast infection any time of the year, but the summer heat coupled with increased sweating create the perfect conditions for the fungus candida to grow. Some health conditions such as diabetes and HIV and oral antibiotic use can also change the “the flora” or good bacteria in our vaginas making it much easier for candida to flourish. Pregnant women and those receiving estrogen hormone therapy also more susceptible to yeast infections.
So how do we get rid of this mess? While the symptoms are usually recognizable and often self-diagnosed, if you aren’t a health care provider you should probably visit one, especially if this is your first infection. I strongly recommend that all pregnant women visit their providers before self-treating.
There are tons of over-the-counter and prescription creams and suppositories to choose from. A visit to you PCP can help you find the right one for you. Shorter treatment forms such as one-day and even three-day vaginal antifungals can actually create more discomfort especially if you have a moderate to severe case. In some instances your provider may prescribe an oral medication.
I have great news ladies, vaginal yeast infections are totally preventable with good genital hygiene. So here’s the scoop:
- Do not wash inside of your vagina with soaps or towels. Use your hand. For areas covered in hair and therefore sweat glands, use a mild soap.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing. Let that vagina breathe.
- After using the restroom, wipe from back to from, clean to dirty, vagina to anus. I’m sure you get the picture. Bacteria from your anus should not come in contact with your vagina or urinary tract. This can lead to other infections.
- Wear breathable underwear especially during hotter months. Cotton holds in less moisture and dries faster than silk, satin and polyester. Or be bold; don’t wear any at all.
- Change out of wet swim clothes. The constant moisture is not good for the va-jay-jay.
- Avoid douching and using scented tampons, pads, sprays and perfumes. All of these things can change the natural flora of your vagina.
So the bad news is, candida can come back. Ughhhhh. Like many times.
If you experience frequent yeast infections (or maybe you’ve only had one and you’re like I never want that shit again), I challenge you to take charge of your vaginal health. Make a couple of easy changes: switch to cotton underwear and unscented tampons or pads. Your vagina will thank you.