Treating Yeast Infections

What is it?
Many women have experienced a yeast infection at least once, and for most, it is easily treated with over-the-counter medication. Yeast infections are just that - an overgrowth of a microscopic organism, Candida albicans, that resides in the vagina, mouth, and digestive tracts of most people. It hangs around most of the time without causing any trouble, but some factors which may change the environment of the vagina can cause it to grow out of control, leading to the symptoms of an infection: itchiness and redness in the area of the vagina and vulva, pain or discomfort during intercourse, and often a thick discharge.

What to Do
A woman experiencing these symptoms for the first time should be examined by a doctor in order to get a definitive diagnosis before attempting to treat herself. Other organisms, sexually transmitted or not, can cause similar symptoms, and won't be responsive to Candida treatments. Some bacteria, which also normally live in the vagina, may also get out of hand, and many sexually transmitted diseases can also cause itchiness and discharge. A woman who suffers either from chronic or recurring infections should definitely consider these possibilities.

Another possibility for those repeated bouts is that an underlying condition may be causing them. Women with AIDS or diabetes are at greater risk, either because their immune systems are compromised, or because higher levels of sugar in the blood and urine make it easier for the yeast to grow.

How to Avoid an Infection
To avoid contracting a yeast infection, a woman can take some precautionary steps. For starters, loose cotton underwear is advised, since it is more breathable than synthetic fabrics are. Don't douche, since this can easily change the pH of the vagina, making it a more comfortable home for organisms. Since another culprit is the introduction of organisms from the anus, it is important to be careful toiletting or during foreplay, when it is really easy for a woman's partner to drag some organisms up to the opening of the vagina inadvertently.

Again, most infections quickly respond to over-the-counter treatments, but if a woman is not finding relief with them, or finds that she is infected repeatedly, her doctor may be able to prescribe stronger medications. Most of them act by a direct method - killing the yeast - but in some cases, she may be given a prescription for borax tablets, which acidify the vagina to make it inhospitable.

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