Last updated: August 2, 2019
Richard Honaker M.D.
Primary Care Physician
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Yeast infections are experienced by about 75 percent of women (and even a few men!), yet there are still many misconceptions still floating around about this common ailment. At Your Doctors Online, we want to dispel these common misconceptions. Check out the top seven yeast infections-busted!
While an estimated 75 percent of women will experience a yeast infection in their lifetime, the symptoms of a yeast infection (also known as vaginal yeast infection, yeast vaginitis, and vaginal candidiasis) can mimic those of similar afflictions. These include bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis and dermatitis. In fact, 50 percent of women diagnosed with a yeast infection actually have a different affliction.
Yeast infections are common, yet uncomfortable. While common, yeast infections have attracted several myths we would like to dispel.
What is a Yeast Infection?
First, it is important to know what that discomfort below the waistline actually is. A yeast infection is simply an overgrowth of yeast due to an imbalance of bacteria in your most sensitive of areas.
Vaginas are usually able to be completely self cleaning and able to regulate the balance between bacteria and yeast (a type of fungus). A yeast infection occurs when this natural balance is disrupted and an overgrowth of yeast occurs.
The majority of yeast infections (over 90 %) are caused by the species known as Candida albicans. The other 10 % are made up of other Candida species.
The presence of Candida species in the vagina is not enough to warrant a cause for alarm. In fact, an estimated 20 to 50 percent of healthy women have Candida already present in the vagina.
An infection will only occur if the natural balance between bacteria and yeast is disturbed. There are several external factors that can cause this imbalance.
Yeast Infection Symptoms Include:
- Itching, burning, and redness
- Burning during urination
- Thick white discharge
- Vaginal pain during sex
- General soreness
Most women know these symptoms all too well. This uncomfortable infection is troublesome, but don’t let the following yeast infection myths make it worse.
Myth #1: Using a Condom During Sex Prevents Yeast Infections
Interestingly, 67 percent of women believe that using a condom will decrease their risk for yeast infections, according to a study by Monistat.
This is both fact and fiction. Condoms can help to prevent the spread of yeast infections between an infected partner and a non-infected partner. However, yeast infections are often caused when a change in the environment of the vagina and those changes can be signaled by an allergy.
Those who are allergic to latex may find that using latex condoms can trigger a yeast infection. Some condoms are covered in nonoxynol-9, a spermicide that may kill the HIV virus. Many studies have shown that nonoxynol-9 can be linked to yeast infections.
If you suspect a latex, you can try non-latex condoms or other barrier methods. Many types of condoms are available without nonoxynol-9.
Myth #2: Yeast Infections are a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)
This is a common misconception because yeast infections can be transmitted through sexual activity, and also initiated through the use of condoms or nonoxynol-9 (a type of spermicide).
While yeast infections can be transmitted through sexual activity, they are not considered a sexually transmitted infection. This is because yeast infections can happen to women who are not currently sexually sexually active.
Just because you are experiencing symptoms after sex, it does not always point to a yeast infection. Many similar symptoms can actually be a UTI or STD. It is important to talk to a doctor make sure you are treating your ailment properly.
Myth #3: Yogurt Does not Treat Yeast Infections
Yogurt is an alternative health remedy for yeast infections. Many studies point to the possibility of yogurt being an effective alternative treatment for yeast infections for those who are either pregnant or those who do not want to risk the side effects of over the counter anti fungal treatments.
Yogurt may be an effective remedy because it contains Lactobacillus bacteria. This is a healthy bacteria that can live in the vagina without irritating the area. It is believed that using yogurt containing good bacteria restores a healthful yeast balance in the vagina. Lactobacillus releases hydrogen peroxide, which kills Candida, combating infection.
While this treatment may have worked for you in the past, but it is important to discuss with a doctor, since the bacteria that causes infections is already in your body. Food may not be the best course of first action.
If you do want to try and use yogurt as a natural option it is important to use natural, sweetener-free and plain varieties.
Myth #4: Vaginal Washing Can Clear Up the Infection
Washing and keeping your vaginal area clean is important to your overall health and wellness, but in moderation. This yeast infection myth is a common one, however, excessive washing of your vagina will not cure your infection. Using unscented soap, changing out of tight gym clothing, proper wiping, and wearing breathable cotton underwear can help prevent a yeast infection, but not cure it.
In order to clear up your infection it is important to treat the infection with an anti fungal treatment, whether you choose an over the counter option, or an alternative treatment.
Myth #5: Swimming causes Yeast Infections
While yeast may thrive in warm and moist conditions, going for a dip in the pool is not going to cause a yeast infection. Yeast infections are caused by an imbalance between the bacteria and yeast in your vagina. While going swimming does not increase your risk of a yeast infection, sitting around in a wet bathing suit may encourage the growth of yeast.
It is important to change out of a wet bathing suit after swimming into dry underwear. A breathable material, such as cotton, is best.
Myth #6: Only Women Get Yeast Infections
Yeast infections are not considered a sexually transmitted disease, but it can be spread by sexual contact. Despite the fact that this infection can be spread by sexual contact, it is not considered a STI since it can also be present in a woman who is not sexually active.
While it is considered rare, men can get yeast infections by having unprotected sex with a women who has a yeast infection. Men who are not circumcised are considered to be at an increased risk. For men, the symptoms of a yeast infection often appear as white spots or a rash on the penis along with peeling skin, itching, irritation or burning.
Myth # 7: There is No Way to Prevent Yeast Infections
While there is no way to prevent every single yeast infection, many can be prevented by following some good self-care methods, and avoiding irritants that can disrupt your body’s natural balance.
Some best practices to avoid yeast infections:
- Eat a diet that is low in sugar and low in carbohydrates
- Eat lots of fruits and veggies for a boost in immunity and good gut health
- Wear loose fitting underwear in a breathable material (like cotton)
- Change out of wet bathing suits and work out gear right away
- Clean the outside of your vagina (vulva) with unscented soap. There is no need to clean the inside of the vagina or to use a douche.
The real issue here is that most women use product that treat symptoms and not the cause. Monistat is a good option, and of course you should always talk to a doctor to ensure you actually have a yeast infection before doing any home treatment. The reasons you keep getting infections may be something serious.
Do you have questions about your downstairs mix up? How about recurring yeast infections that never seem to go away? It is important to get the facts and stay clear of the myths. You can talk to a doctor via our free doctor chat now.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.
About Richard Honaker M.D.
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