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A healthy vaginal environment is one that maintains a moderately low (acidic) pH level, and a healthy balance of yeast and good bacteria. When that balance changes, yeast overgrowth can result in candidiasis, a common yeast infection. It’s so common that 75% of women experience at least one in their lifetime.1 A yeast infection is highly treatable, but left unchecked it can progress into more serious conditions. Recurring yeast infections may also be an indication of underlying health problems.
What are the signs?
Common symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include itching, swelling, soreness, rash/redness, pain/burning during urination or sex, and a gray or white clumpy discharge often likened to cottage cheese.2 Individual experiences will vary, but a trained medical professional can assess the infection and perform a culture if necessary to confirm the diagnosis.
How did this happen?
Candida albicans yeast is a natural resident of the body, as are certain beneficial bacteria—and it’s the most common cause of yeast infections.2 A yeast infection is the result of an upset in the balance of this good yeast and bacteria, resulting in an overgrowth of yeast and a reduction in the amount of healthy bacteria in the vaginal microbiome.2
This change can be the result of many things—menstruation, a high-sugar diet, antibiotics, or even stress and lack of sleep.2 Other causes, such as uncontrolled diabetes (which can affect your sugar levels) or immunosuppressive treatments or conditions can also affect the body’s ability to maintain a low vaginal pH level.2
So, what do I do?
There are ways to help reduce your risk for a yeast infection. Eat a well-balanced diet, low in processed sugar. Wash the vaginal area with warm water and a mild, unscented soap—limit your use of antibacterial soaps, douching, feminine sprays or deodorants. Stick to underclothes made of white, 100% cotton—leave the nylon pantyhose and thongs behind.2
But if symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection do arise, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional. Many vaginal infections share symptoms and there’s more than one strain of yeast that can result in an overgrowth—a doctor will be able to confirm.
The vast majority of vaginal yeast infections result from an overgrowth of candida albicans already present in the body. For these, a one- to three-day regimen of antifungal treatment is commonly prescribed, whether by topical cream, suppository or tablet.1