Sunday, 13 November 2016

Preventing Recurrent Vaginal Yeast Infections


Vaginal yeast infection, a common condition seen in women is caused by the yeast organism Candida Albicans.

Yeast cells are usually present in and around the vagina in harmless numbers all the time. They form part of the useful microbial flora found around the vaginal area with their population kept in control by other microbial organisms e.g Lactobacillus.

Certain factors however make yeast cells grow aggressively and out of control. When this happens, classical symptoms of vaginal yeast infection develop. These symptoms include;
  • Vaginal itching
  • Burning sensation
  • Redness around vaginal area
  • Thick, white vaginal discharge
  • Visible rash in some cases
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
For most women with vaginal yeast infection, simple treatments which might include administration of oral anti-fungal therapy, topical anti-fungal creams or vaginal insertion of anti-fungal pessaries is all that is needed to eliminate this infection. For some women though, its not so straight forward as they go on to experience recurrent vaginal yeast infection.

Vaginal yeast infections are said to be recurrent when at least four episodes of vaginal yeast infection occur within an interval of one year.

Although not fully understood, causes of recurrent vaginal yeast infections include;
  • Poor diagnosis and treatment.
  • Alteration of normal hormonal balance, often caused by (but not limted to) pregnancy and contraceptives 
  • Frequent use of antibiotics
  • Low immunity
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Wearing tight fitting clothes
  • Poor personal hygiene

Preventing Reoccurrence

To avoid recurrent vaginal yeast infections, the following preventive practices would prove beneficial:

(1)  Get Proper Diagnosis and Treatment: Getting proper first time diagnosis and treatment is one crucial step to help prevent recurrent vaginal yeast infection. Why?

While the Candida Albicans fungal organism is the most frequently identified cause of vaginal yeast infections, there are other fungal organisms that also do cause vaginal yeast infections e.g Candida Tropicalis and Candida Glabrata. Such organisms are usually not easily eradicated by the same medication often used in eliminating Candida Albicans.

This is seen often times in women who self medicate. Proper diagnosis will help identify the fungal organism responsible for recurrent/persistent infection and appropriate treatment regimen applied.

(2)  Comply With Treatment Regimen: A recurrent vaginal yeast infection might just be caused by poor treatment compliance in the first place which would result in an inadequately treated vaginal yeast infection masquerading as recurrent vaginal yeast infection.

Use treatment regimen according to how it has been prescribed and for the stipulated duration.

(3)  Do Not Use Antibiotics Indiscriminately: Yeast cells present at the vagina form part of the normal micorobial vaginal flora in the first place. The growth and population of these yeast cells are usually controlled by proctective bacterial organisms also present at the vaginal area. Frequent antibiotic use kill off these protective bacteria, allowing the yeast cells to overgrow and cause recurrent or persistent vaginal yeast infections.

(4)  Improve On Personal Hygiene: The anatomy of the feminine intimate area make it imperative for women to pay attention to improved personal hygiene practise as a preventive method of benefit in recurrent vaginal yeast infections.

Unlike in males, the proximity of the anus to the vagina makes it very possible for frequent self infection with organisms from the anus that co-infect or trigger aggressive growth of yeast cells.

Females should take care not to allow the wipe they use in cleaning the anus come in contact with the vagina. After using the toilet, clean the anus in "forward to back" hand motions. Also make sure to clean the space in between the vagina and anus (the perineum) often.

The inside of the vagina (vaginal canal) is self cleaning so it does not need cleaning at all. Only the outside area around the vagina needs cleaning. Women with grown finger nails should avoid inserting their finger with grown nails into the vagina so as not to re-introduce yeast cells and other bacteria into the vagina.

Avoid using soaps and disinfectants in cleaning the vagina as they can trigger over growth of yeast cells.

Look out for scented sanitary pads and tampons. Perfumes do trigger excessive growth of yeast cells at the vagina.

Dyes can cause irritation at the vagina, avoid wiping the vagina with coloured or printed toilet paper/wipes.

(5)  Pay Attention To Your Clothing And Underwear: Yeast cells grow fast and plentiful around warm, moist areas. Keep vaginal area dry, cool and breathable with the right choice of clothing and underwear.

Avoid wearing tight fitting jeans, leggings, pantyhose, pyjamas etc. Do not wear wet underwear as they encourage growth of yeast cells, change underwears often. Check up on the materials used in making your underwear. Go for cotton underwear that allow air flow into vaginal area.  Avoid underwear made with synthetic materials.

(6)  Consider Losing Some Body Weight: Obese women or women with excessive body weight would have considerable hard time with recurrent vaginal yeast infections because they have more skin folds around the vaginal area for yeast cells to grow on. Skin folds are usual warm and moist, presenting ideal spots for yeast cell growths.

Maintaining good body weight would help control growth of yeast cells around the vagina in women with excessive body weight.

(7) Immunity and Diet: Having a healthy immunity is an effective weapon in keeping recurrent vaginal infection at bay. Immunity suppressing drugs and ailments (e.g HIV and diabetes) cause persistent vaginal yeast infections.

Good diet, rest and adequate exercise helps keep body immunity functioning in top form.

Watch what you eat, especially sugars. Recent findings indicate that sugars might play a role in recurrent vaginal yeast infection. Yeast cells feed on sugar, this would mean a high sugar diet will increase its growth rate. Exercising good control of sugar intake in dietary form is imperative in women with recurrent vaginal yeast infection.

Women with diabetes mellitus suffering from recurrent vaginal yeast infection do have to ensure they always keep blood sugar within good limits as the presence of diabetes mellitus compounds the problem by adding the disadvantage of having immune suppression, which in itself is a direct result of excess blood sugar levels.

Probiotics found in yoghourts have been shown to have beneficial effect in women with recurrent yeast infection although they work best when they are inserted as a suppository into vagina. When inserted into vagina in suppository form they can suppress and prevent recurrent vaginal yeast infections with up to 87% efficacy.

(8)  Contraceptive Pills: Estrogen based contraceptive pills have a propensity to cause vaginal yeast infections.  They do this by increasing estrogen levels which in turn increases a woman's susceptibility to vaginal yeast infection.

When using oral contraceptives, request combination pills with lower concentration of estrogen or use a different contraceptive method altogether (learn more here).

Chat with the Pharmacy Team. Join BBM Channel On C00378D12

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