When a woman or her doctor refers to a “yeast infection” they are most likely referring to a case of vaginal thrush. Vaginal thrush is caused by the yeast candida. Candida is a microbe that normally lives in and around the skin of the vagina. The presence candida is normal in small amounts and they are usually kept from thriving by the body’s immune system and the otherwise healthy bacteria that exist in the vaginal area. However sometimes the conditions around the genitalia change to an environment that allows candida to bloom, migrate into the vagina and cause the symptoms typical of a full-blown yeast infection. Yeast such as candida like warm moist places and that is why they are normally present in areas like the mouth and groin.
How do I know if I have Vaginal Thrush?Vaginal thrush is the second most common reason for a vaginal discharge, the first being a bacterial infection known as vaginosis. The discharge accompanying vaginal thrush will likely appear milky or creamy, but it can also be watery and clear. Itching, redness, pain especially upon urination may also accompany a case of vaginal thrush. Vaginal thrush is the most common yeast infection among women. Symptoms can be relatively mild and may clear up on their own; other time’s symptoms can be severe requiring treatment. Thrush cannot damage your vagina, effect your ability to have children, and cannot cause cervical or any other form of cancer. If you are pregnant vaginal thrush will not harm your baby, however you can pass thrush on to your baby during birth. In that case it usually appears as a case of oral thrush, as it is transferred to the baby’s mouth while passing through the birth canal. Thrush is not a sexually transmitted disease per se, as it can flair up from existing microbes for any number of reasons, even in young girls who are not sexually active. However you can pass vaginal thrush on to your sexual partner, even through oral sex.
Treatments for Vaginal ThrushNot every vaginal discharge or discomfort is thrush. If you have had thrush before and the symptoms are the same, you are probably correct in assuming that it has recurred, and can follow whatever treatments have worked for you in the past. If however this is the first time you are experiencing symptoms, it is probably best to have a healthcare professional look at you, just to be sure it is indeed a case of thrush. Most doctors and nurses can tell thrush by looking at the discharge if the symptoms are typical. However the practitioner may swab the discharge and send it to a lab to confirm the infection if they are not sure. There are many very effective treatments for vaginal thrush, what works best for you is dependent on your symptoms and your individual body. The most common treatment for vaginal thrush is to use a topical anti-yeast medication. These are available through prescription or as various over-the-counter preparations. They are usually in the form of creams or vaginal suppositories containing the active ingredients; clotrimazole, econazole, fenticonazole, or miconazole. There are oral anti-yeast tablets that can also be taken to clear up vaginal thrush.
Other TreatmentsVaginal thrush almost always responds to the above anti-yeast treatments in a few days. However some women prefer to treat the condition naturally. Some women have achieved positive results in reducing the symptoms of vaginal thrush by:
- Live Yogurt, ingested or inserted into the vagina
- Bathing in solutions of vinegar or bicarbonate of soda to reduce the acidity of the vagina
- Suppositories of tea tree oils
Can I minimize the Risk of Getting Vaginal Thrush?Since candida naturally lives in and around the skin of the vagina, there is no definitive way to prevent a case of vaginal thrush. However there are various conditions that have been identified under which thrush is more likely to develop:
- If you are pregnant
- If you are taking oral antibiotics to treat another infection that may kill off some of the “good bacteria” that normally keep thrush in check.
- Wearing tight underwear not made of cotton or other breathable materials
- Using bubble baths, vaginal deodorants, or anything else that can disturb the pH level of the vagina
- If you have HIV or diabetes
- If your immune system has been compromised by chemo or radiation therapy