Fungal yeasts are normal flora living within the human body. They reside in the mouth and vagina. Candiada allbicans is the most common type of fungal yeast and is normally found in the mouth and vagina. This yeast is kept under control by what is called 'good bacteria,' which keeps the yeast at an appropriate level. When, for various reasons, this 'good bacteria' is not prevalent enough in the body, the normal residing yeast is able to multiply quickly, causing a yeast infection. This article will only address the issues of vaginal thrush, as it is the most common. Oral candidal infections tend to only be a problem for babies, the elderly, and those who are immunosuppressed (e.g. AIDS, or those taking anticancer drugs).
What causes thrush?
Illness or being "run down," which can lower the body's natural immune defence.
Certain medications such as;
Immunosupressant drugs (those used in cancer patients).
The contraceptive pill.
Antibiotics (and especially the combination of these with the contraception pill). Antibiotics not only destroy the bacteria causing the original illness, but also the 'good bacteria' which keeps the yeast from multiplying too fast.
Diabetes: this is due to high blood glucose levels. Because yeast feeds on sugar, the high levels of glucose helps to feed the bacteria.
Pregnancy can lead to higher levels of sugar in the vaginal tissue, due to hormonal changes, which the yeast can feed off.
Symptoms (for women) can include:
White, odorless discharge from the vagina
Itching within the area affected
Soreness of the vagina
Burning sensation when urinating
Pain during sexual intercourse
Men, symptoms include:
Men are less likely to "catch" thrush off their partner, but it is contagious, and they can catch it.
Redness and /or itching under the foreskin or on the tip of the penis
If uncircumcised, a thick discharge under the foreskin
Slight discharge from the urethra (where they urinate from)
Discomfort when urinating
Diagnosis by your doctor is necessary, as other vaginal infections can have similar symptoms; therefore it is important you are treating the right infection. Diagnosis is usually done through your doctor taking a smear test of the vaginal fluid, this is sent off to a laboratory for testing.
Once diagnosed treatment includes the use of an anti-fungal cream, along with suggestions that may help to reduce the severity of the attack.
Because yeast grows in warm, moist environments it is a good idea to avoid wearing synthetic or tight clothing, as they increase sweating in the groin area, so it is suggested that you wear loose fitting cotton clothing.
Preventing another attack
Keep the groin area dry.
Avoid heavily scented bath oils, douches, or vaginal deodorants, as they can alter the natural acidity of the vagina.
After every bowel movement, ensure you wipe from front to back. This will help prevent any candida from the bowel entering into the vagina.
Avoid soaking in the tub for long periods.
Use a vaginal lubricant if necessary, as tears to the vaginal tissue increase the risk of thrush.
Avoid sugar and excess alcohol.
Eat yogurt containing 'good bacteria' regularly, as it helps avoid yeast over-growth.
- Louise Ganey