Causes of Recurrent Vaginal Yeast Infections
A small number of yeast cells live naturally on the skin and in the vagina. The acidic environment of the vagina normally limits the growth of yeast, but infection develops when something happens to change the balance of these organisms. These changes are often due to:
- Antibiotic use
- Hormonal changes with your monthly cycle or pregnancy
- Chronic health problems, including diabetes or an impaired immune system
Most yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans fungus. These infections are very common, and approximately 75 percent of women will get a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime.
Recurrent vaginal yeast infections are symptomatic infections that happen four or more times a year. Only about 5 percent of women experience these chronic infections, and they are most common in women with uncontrolled diabetes or weak immune systems.
Symptoms of Recurrent Vaginal Yeast Infections
Symptoms of vaginal yeast infection include:
- Itching and burning outside the vagina on the vulva
- Redness and swelling of the vulva
- Thick, white, lumpy, cottage cheese-like discharge.
Frequent or severe vaginal yeast infections can cause swelling or cracks in the vulvar area.
Prevention & Treatment of Recurrent Vaginal Yeast Infections
Treatment options for vaginal yeast infections include vaginal creams, ointments, tablets, suppositories or a single dose of an oral medication called Diflucan (fluconazole). Some of these treatments are available over-the-counter but others require a prescription.
If you suffer from recurrent vaginal yeast infections, it’s important to rule out any health issues such as diabetes, which could be contributing to the problem. Women who are otherwise in good health can reduce the risk of repeat infections by:
- Using good genital hygiene
- Wiping from front to back after using the toilet
- Choosing underwear with a cotton crotch
- Not douching
- Changing out of wet swimsuits as soon as possible
- Opting for non-scented tampons and toilet paper
Your OB/GYN may also recommend a six-month course of fluconazole or a weekly regimen of vaginal suppositories to combat recurrent vaginal yeast infections. Vaginal yeast infections are not a sexually transmitted disease.