If you’ve had a vaginal yeast infection, you are not alone. Approximately three out of four women will have at least one yeast infection at some point in their lives, and many women will have more than one. (1)
Yeast is a fungus that is normally present in your body, including in the warm, moist area around your vagina. The most common kind of yeast that causes vaginal yeast infections is candida.
Lactobacillus bacteria also live in the vagina. These bacteria produce acid that prevents yeast from growing out of control. But if something upsets the balance between yeast and bacteria, the yeast can multiply and cause an infection.
Common symptoms of a yeast infection include burning, itching, swelling and iritation in the vaginal area. A yeast infection can also cause pain when you have sex, and may produce a thick white discharge that may look similar to cottage cheese.
You may be more prone to a yeast infection when something in your body changes the balance between bacteria and yeast. This may include:
• Taking antibiotics: Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. But they can also kill the “good” bacteria in your vaginal area.
• Estrogen levels: High estrogen levels from pregnancy or hormone treatments can encourage yeast to grow. This can also result from a hormone imbalance around the time of your period. Birth control pills can affect your estrogen levels as well.
• Diabetes: If your sugar levels are not well controlled, yeast may multiply.
• An impaired immune system: An immune system weakened by HIV or other immune disorders can allow yeast to grow.
• Poor diet: Eating a lot of sugary foods may encourage yeast growth.
• Stress: Stress may affect our immune system’s ability to fight off yeast infections.
• Lack of sleep: Yeast grows best in warm, moist conditions.
Fortunately, it is possible to lower your risk of future infections. You can do this by making a few important lifestyle changes: (4)