A yeast infection is a type of vaginitis which means inflammation of vagina. Yeast infection is common and affects around one-third of females at some or the other point in their lives.
Yeast infections can occur anywhere in the body including mouth and skin. They can also happen in blood. Around more than 20 types of candida live in our body without creating any problems. Bacteria keep a check on their growth. But, when something happens that kills the bacteria, then the yeast multiplies and causes infections.
Antibiotics are used to kill harmful bacteria in the body. But in the process they can end up destroying beneficial bacteria which sometimes lead to yeast infection.
Vaginal yeast infections are fungal infections that are caused in the vagina. These infections are caused only when a type of fungus called candida – which occurs naturally in the vagina – starts multiplying out of control.
Yeast infections can cause severe itching and irritation of the vagina and vulva – the outer part of the female genital area.
Causes of yeast infection
Some of the most common causes of yeast infection are –
- Douches and vaginal sprays
- Diaper rash
Other medical causes are –
- Weakened immune system
How long does yeast infection last?
This totally depends on how severe your infection is and how it is treated. If your infection is mild, it will clear up within three or four days. Sometimes such infections don’t even require treatment. However, severe infections may take one or two weeks to clear up.
Although home remedies and over-the-counter treatments are effective for mild infections, they don’t work as powerfully as prescription drugs. If you suffer from a severe yeast infection and you are undergoing a milder treatment, you may experience symptoms longer.
Rarely, yeast infections also clear up without treatment. However, you’ll still need to restore the natural balance of yeast and bacteria in your vagina. Untreated yeast infections are more likely to recur or become severe.
Why does yeast infection happen?
Vaginas maintain their own balance of yeast and bacteria. The bacteria called Lactobacillus helps to keep the vagina little acidic, which is not very much in favour of yeast. The acidic environment keeps the growth of yeast in control.
Antibiotics affect the natural balance of your body. Along with getting rid of the bad bacteria that causes illness, antibiotics also get rid of the good bacteria including Lactobacillus. When there is not enough lactobacillus, your vagina becomes less acidic, thus making it ideal for the yeast.
Home remedies for yeast infection
For mild yeast infections, home remedies work effectively. However, you should know that these home remedies are not supported by studies and therefore doctors do not recommend such home remedies over prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines.
Consuming yogurt definitely helps you to replenish good bacteria. So, to restore the good bacteria in your vagina, you should eat yogurt. You can also apply yogurt near your vagina for fast relief. Make sure you choose Greek yogurt that is unflavoured and without added sugar and one that contains active live cultures. Apply yogurt near your vulva for getting relief from itch.
- Place a towel on your bed or flat surface.
- Apply a spoonful of yogurt on your hands or washcloth.
- Gently pull back the folds of your vagina with one hand and apply the yogurt on your vulva with the other hand.
- Insert some yogurt into your vagina.
- Leave the yogurt for 10 -15 minutes.
- Gently remove the yogurt with a washcloth.
- Repeat this two times a day.
- Wash your hands after the application.
If you prefer to eat yogurt instead of applying it, consume yogurt twice a day until your infection clears up completely. This can help you restore the bacterial balance in your infection.
Use tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is used to kill bacteria and viruses. According to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, tea tree oil is effective for yeast infections.
- Mix the tea tree oil with any carrier oil like coconut oil.
- Fill a suppository applicator with the oil mixture.
- Lie on your back with your legs apart.
- Gently pull back the folds on your vagina with one hand.
- Use the other hand and slide the applicator into your vagina.
- Inject the mixture.
- Wash your hands once you have used the applicator.
- Do this three or four times
If your infection doesn’t clear up even after applying the oil four times, consult a doctor.
Use boric acid
Boric acid is a good antiseptic medicine. According to a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health, boric acid successfully gets rid of yeast infections.
- Mix water and boric acid in the ratio of 2:1. Make sure to have more water in the solution as boric acid can irritate your skin.
- Fill a suppository applicator with the mixture.
- Lie on your back and spread your legs apart.
- With one hand hold back the folds of your vagina.
- Slide in the applicator and with other hand push the mixture in.
- Wash your hands after the application.
- Do this two times a day for two weeks.
If you feel the mixture is irritating your skin, then stop the application and consult your doctor. This mixture should not be used by pregnant women.
Use Oregano oil
The oil of oregano is effective in treating yeast infections. However, the oil should be from wild oregano as it contains thymol and carvacrol, powerful antifungals.
Oregano oil is a natural blood thinner. So, don’t use it if you take blood thinners for some other medical condition. Also, don’t use it if you have blood clotting issues. Essential oils should not be taken orally. It is recommended to use it by diluting it in some carrier oil like almond oil or olive oil.
- Mix 3 -5 drops of oregano oil per ounce of any carrier oil.
- Then apply it to your skin and massage gently.
- It can also be inhaled through a diffuser.
- Do not use oregano oil near your vagina.
Use coconut oil
Coconut oil contains antifungal properties. According to a study coconut oil is effective against C. albicans. You can use coconut oil directly on the affected area, but make sure that the oil is pure and organic.
Apple cider vinegar
An apple cider vinegar bath is also considered to be effective against yeast infection. The acidic properties of ACV can eliminate harful microorganisms, including yeast.
- Add half cup of apple cider vinegar to your bath tub and soak in for 20 minutes.
- The vinegar should be diluted in water before making any contact with skin.
- It is recommended to add apple cider vinegar in your diet.
Make sure not to douch with apple cider vinegar. Douching can make you prone to a reoccurrence of the yeast infection.
How can you prevent yourself from yeast infection?
There are things that you can do to reduce your risk of getting a yeast infection after taking antibiotics.
Inform your doctor
If every time you get chronic yeast infection after taking antibiotics, tell your doctor. He might give you an antifungal pill – fluconazole – during your course of antibiotics.
You might be needed to take one pill on the first day and another one every seven days until you are done with your antibiotics. This will help you overcome the problem of overgrowth of yeast when on antibiotics.
Fluconazole is a strong medication and it can cause side effects such as
- Upset stomach
- Symptoms of flu
- Skin rash
If you suffer from any of these or if your infection is severe, your doctor may recommend two or three doses over time.
Use an antifungal pill
Using an over-the-counter antifungal pill can help you prevent yeast infection caused by antibiotics, only by your doctor’s prescription. Antifungal agents act in place of good bacteria, working to keep yeast in check.
Start using the antifungal at the same time you start your antibiotics to prevent a yeast infection.
Antifungal drugs like azoles are usually the first line of treatment for yeast infections. Short duration treatments are available in doses of three or seven days.
The medicines are usually available in the form of tablets, creams, ointments and suppositories.
Most common OTCs include clotrimazole, miconazole, and tioconazole.
All these medications might cause some irritation or burning sensation when applied. Avoid having sex when you have yeast infection. Even if you are having sex, you should use birth control method while on these medications.
Replenish your good bacteria
Antibiotics attack the good bacteria in your body. By increasing the number of good bacteria in your body you will be able to undo the damage done by the antibiotics. Probiotics help to restore the bacteria –yeast bacteria in your body.
Take a probiotic supplement containing lactobacillus bacteria. It will help to get the vaginal flora and digestive tract back on track. Including yogurt containing live active cultures in your diet is also one way to increase probiotics.
If you take an oral supplement of probiotic, it will take at least 10 days to get the full effect. For a quick result, some people use probiotics as vaginal suppositories. You can also use vaginal probiotics. According to a study conducted by Harvard Health, suppositories of probiotics have proved to be effective in treating vaginosis.
Avoid using antibiotics unnecessarily
Avoid using antibiotics for minor infections. When you take antibiotics unnecessarily, it shortens the healing period by a day or two. Before taking antibiotics, ask your doctor if there is anything that might help. If your doctor suggests taking antibiotics, make sure not to finish the course. If you stop the medicine in the middle of its course, it will cause antibiotics resistance which renders antibiotics ineffective against harmful bacteria.
Tips to prevent yeast infection
Here are some tips to reduce the risk of a yeast infection.
- As soon as possible, change out of a wet underwear or bathing suit. Yeast tends to thrive in moist environments.
- Avoid hot tubs and hot baths. Other than moist environment, yeast loves a warm environment.
- Always make sure to wear loose-fitting clothes. There are chances tight clothing can increase heat and moisture around your vulva which can cause an infection.
- Wear cotton underwear. Cotton clothing helps to keep things cool and dry.
- Do not douche. Douching removes healthy bacteria in your vagina.
- Avoid using any kind of deodorant products in your vagina including powders, sprays, scented pads and tampons.
- If you are a diabetic patient, make sure to keep your blood sugar under control. High levels of blood sugar encourage the growth of yeast.
If your yeast infection doesn’t get better even after treatment, you should consult your doctor. Over-the-counter antifungal creams can take at least 10 days to get rid of a yeast infection. You should also consult your doctor, if you have recurrent yeast infections. If you get more than four yeast infections per year, talk to your doctor as it would require prescription drugs or treatment. Even after trying all the home remedies, your infection doesn’t get better, you could be having some other condition like bacterial vaginosis which is a bacterial infection that has similar symptoms to those of a yeast infection. But vaginosis won’t respond well to antifungal treatments as it is not caused by fungus.
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In case your symptoms don’t resolve two weeks, talk to your doctor. Another treatment might be necessary as your current treatment might not be strong enough to clear your infection. Also, if your infection happens again within two months, you should consult your doctor. Recurrent yeast infections are common. But if you yeast infection is recurring more than once in a year, then it might be a sign of an underlying medical condition like pregnancy or diabetes.