Everything you need to know about yeast infections

Reader's Digest Editors

There's little so uncomfortable as the itching, soreness, and burning of a yeast infection. Most of us will get at least one. Some of us will get many. What really is the best treatment? 

Prevention advice

Maintain a healthy vulvar and vaginal environment. Limit the chemicals that come into contact with your vagina: Consider skipping scented feminine hygiene products, soaps (the vagina is self-cleaning) and dryer sheets, and using laundry detergent without fragrance.

Don’t douche. To allow your vagina to “breathe,” wear cotton undies, and don’t use a panty liner if you’re not menstruating. Cancel your Brazilian wax, too. Hair is good. It’s a protective barrier for the skin and keeps it healthy. 

Read more: Thrush treatments and remedies

 

How to cope with a yeast infection

how to deal with a yeast infection

Up to 75 per cent of women will have at least one vaginal yeast infection during their life. However, many women treat themselves when they don’t actually have one, according to a 2008 study from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

“When a woman feels itchy or ‘burny,’ it could actually be bacterial vaginosis, which requires antibiotics, or simply irritation from a common irritant such as a scented bath gel,” says Susan Hoffstetter, a women’s health nurse practitioner and faculty member at the university. 

What should you do if you suspect you have a yeast infection? If you have never been diagnosed with one, are pregnant or have recurring vaginal irritation, get checked by your healthcare provider. But if you’ve been diagnosed in the past and recognize the symptoms, it’s fine to use an over-the-counter kit containing an antifungal agent, which comes as a suppository or cream in one-, three- and seven-day formulations. The active ingredient is either miconazole or clotrimazole. “I usually recommend the three-day regimen,” says Shelley Woloshyn, a Saskatoon pharmacist. “Women often don’t use the seven-day kits for the entire time, which compromises the effectiveness.” 

Some women prefer a more convenient prescription medication called Diflucan (fluconazole), a single-dose capsule taken by mouth. It isn’t suitable for women who are pregnant or who have liver problems. The oral and the vaginal treatments work equally well, according to a 2007 survey by researchers at the Ottawa Health Research Institute of 19 clinical trials. 

Talk to your doctor if you have diabetes (predisposing you to yeast infections caused by a yeast strain that does not respond to “azole” medications) or are not responding to treatments. 

A number of studies say that eating yogurt or taking probiotic supplements are also cures, though some experts aren’t convinced. Says Dr. Cherie LeFevre, an associate professor of women’s health at Saint Louis University School of Medicine who co-directs a vulvar and vaginal disease clinic, “They haven’t been definitively proven to have an impact.” But, she says, they certainly can’t hurt.