Can Yeast Infections Be Avoided?
A surefire way to ruin a woman’s week is the realization that she has a yeast infection. Perhaps this is your first, or maybe you’ve experienced such an infection before and already know what to do. Either way, one question so many women have when it comes to yeast infections is whether or not they can be prevented. Fortunately, the answer is yes.
What is a vaginal yeast infection?
Vaginal yeast infections are caused by fungal infections. The condition is very common – it’s estimated that approximately 3 in 4 women will experience this condition at least once in their lifetime. Although it is not categorized as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it is more likely for someone to get a yeast infection after their first experience of having intercourse. Symptoms of the condition include an itching and burning sensation within and outside of the vaginal walls, vaginal pain or soreness, vaginal swelling, a rash, a white odorless discharge, and/or a watery discharge. Sometimes, these symptoms can be severe.
Do I need to see a doctor if I suspect a yeast infection?
If your symptoms are moderate and you have experienced a yeast infection previously, then it is possible you may be able to use over-the-counter (OTC) yeast infection medication with success. However, there are situations in which you should seek immediate medical care, including if:
- This is your first yeast infection
- You’ve already attempted OTC treatment without success
- Your symptoms are severe
- You are or may be pregnant
- You have an underlying health condition that leaves you immunocompromised
- You have four or more yeast infections per year
- You have untreated diabetes
How long does it take to treat a yeast infection?
Most yeast infections can be successfully treated in around 7 days, with symptoms lessening after 4 days of consistent medication. The benefit of seeking a doctor’s care versus OTC treatment is that a physician can provide a prescription medication that addresses nearly 100% of yeast infection types, meaning that the odds of successful treatment are higher. The key to healing the infection is completing the treatment every day.
How can I prevent yeast infections?
While both OTC and prescription medications can be immensely effective in treating vaginal yeast infections, life is always better (and more comfortable) when you don’t have a yeast infection in the first place. There are several things that you can do to prevent yeast infections from occurring. Our top ten tips for yeast infection prevention include:
- Wear loose-fitting clothing made from breathable fabrics, such as cotton. This includes your underwear, pants, shorts, skirts, and exercise apparel. Remember, tight clothing made from less breathable fabrics provide the ideal conditions for an infection to be born.
- Be sure to always practice good hygiene, including washing your vaginal area with warm water and clean hands when you bathe. Use a gentle, unscented soap or body wash to cleanse the vaginal area.
- Be sure to only wash the external parts of the vagina and avoid washing or douching the inside of the vagina, including with water. Washing the inside of the vagina throws off the natural bacterial balance of the vagina and makes it more likely for you to develop a yeast infection. The inside of the vagina is self-cleaning and doesn’t need any additional washing.
- After washing, keep the vaginal area cool and dry; wearing cotton underwear is a good practice to maintain this daily.
- Very hot baths and hot tubs can increase your risk of yeast infection, so it’s best to avoid these when possible.
- Do not stay in wet clothing or bathing suits for extended periods of time.
- When you’re on your period, make sure to change your sanitary product regularly.
- Choose menstrual products that are made from natural materials and unscented.
- Wearing panty liners daily when you don’t have your period can increase your risk of getting a yeast infection. If you can, it’s best to avoid wearing panty liners every day. However, if you have to, make sure you change them frequently throughout the day.
- Only take antibiotics when your doctor confirms that they are necessary; talk to your doctor about the value of taking probiotics at the same time.
To learn more about yeast infections, treatment, and prevention, or to schedule an appointment in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Pacific Women's OB/GYN Medical Group.Back to blog