Yeast Infections Can Suck—So Experts Explain How to Get Rid of Them
Doctors answer all of your *burning* questions.
If you're a vagina owner, chances are at one point or another, you've had a yeast infection. And if you haven't, well, you should still read this because yeast infections are one of the most common vaginal infections out there affecting one million vagina-owners a year. On top of it being something that you may encounter at one point in your life, they're also incredibly uncomfortable as the symptoms include itchiness, irritation, burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina and vulva along with discharge.
So yeah, there's no denying yeast infections are a buzzkill, but luckily, they can be taken care of with the proper treatments. Discover how to get rid of a yeast infection with the help of two professional gynecologists.
What causes a yeast infection?
It's important to note that this type of vaginal infection is not considered a sexually transmitted infection. But yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of fungus, called candida or yeast, which disrupts the vaginal flora, California-based gynecologist and founder of LaMaria, Dr. Manuela Maria Vazquez, tells HelloGiggles.
"One of the most common causes for yeast infections is antibiotics," Pennsylvania-based gynecologist, Dr. Kelly Copeland, tells HelloGiggles. This happens because antibiotics fight off the infection they were prescribed for along with the vagina's healthy bacteria resulting in excess yeast to grow.
Other causes that allow the fungus to thrive are warm moist environments, like wearing pads for longer than the recommended time or spending long days in a tight damp bathing suit. Dr. Vazquez adds that diabetes that isn't regulated or a compromised immune system are also risk factors for yeast infections.
How to get rid of a yeast infection?
The first step in getting rid of a yeast infection is determining that you have one. You may experience any of the symptoms listed above, but Dr. Copeland says, "yeast infections typically present with thick white discharge and are most commonly associated with vaginal and vulvar itching or burning."
Dr. Vazquez recommends going to a doctor if you're experiencing any of these symptoms because it's easy to misdiagnose yourself. "Most physicians discourage self-diagnosis of vaginal infections because they are often inaccurate leading to an incorrect diagnosis and treatment, and possible worsening of symptoms," she says. Once a diagnosis is made, the fix is pretty easy.
Both experts recommend over-the-counter anti-fungal medication, which is easily accessible at your local pharmacy. "They come in multiple formulations and lengths of treatment specifically for vaginal infections," says Dr. Copeland. "They often also come with external itch relief ointments, which are very helpful while you wait for the medication to take care of the symptoms." According to the Mayo Clinic, these over-the-counter options can get rid of a yeast infection in three to seven days.
Another available treatment that a doctor may prescribe is a single dose of oral medication to get rid of the infection. The biggest difference between the two treatments available is over-the-counter is usually placed inside the vagina and on the vulva, while the medication, which you can only get from a doctor, is ingested. Currently, there are no at-home remedies that are proven to get rid of a yeast infection.
When should you see a doctor?
If your symptoms fail to improve within a week, quickly reoccur, or become worse despite taking over-the-counter or oral treatment, you should see your doctor, says Dr. Copeland.
It's common for three out of every four vagina-owners to get a yeast infection at least once or twice in their lifetime, reports the Mayo Clinic. That said, if you get four or more infections within a year, then it's best to consult with a doctor on treatment plans that work best for you. "If you have frequent yeast infections, it is also worthwhile to check in with your doctor, even if they improve with over-the-counter therapy as they may be able to work with you on a plan to prevent recurrences," says Dr. Copeland.