September 23, 2014
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Yeast Infection

 Health Home >> Yeast Infection >> FAQ 


Frequently Asked Questions

Author: Dr. Charlene A. Lyndon is a general obstetrician/gynecologist at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary, Alberta. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa. Currently, she is affiliated with the University of Calgary Medical School and other associations in the medical community.

Can I get a yeast infection from having sex? I've noticed some itching down there - could this be a yeast infection? Should I see my doctor about it?

If you have sex with someone who has a yeast infection, it is possible that you could become infected. Although a yeast infection is not generally considered a sexually transmitted disease (or sexually transmitted infection, STI), 12% to 15% of men develop a yeast infection after sex with an infected partner.

Symptoms that appear to be a yeast infection could also be caused by an STI. It's important to know whether or not your symptoms are related to a yeast infection or a possible STI. For instance, a vaginal discharge is frequently associated with yeast infections but it can also be a symptom of bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, or gonorrhea. Making an assumption about your condition could have serious effects on your health - now or in the future. Every year, the number of cases of STIs increases and some of these infections can cause complications as serious as infertility (i.e., gonorrhea).

See your doctor or health care professional to get tested. The results will help determine what treatment is right for you. During treatment, it's important to refrain from sexual activity to prevent spreading the infection.

I often buy medication at the pharmacy to treat a yeast infection. Is it safe to buy a medication at the pharmacy without visiting my doctor first?

Although you may think you have a yeast infection, this may not be the case. The best advice is to visit your doctor, who will take a sample that can be sent to a laboratory for analysis.

After laboratory analysis, your doctor will confirm whether or not it is a yeast infection. Because some sexually transmitted infections or other vaginal irritations may have symptoms similar to a yeast infection, self-diagnosis and self-treatment with an over-the-counter medication is not always the best idea. It's important to know the cause of your symptoms because each cause has a different treatment. Your doctor can recommend the most appropriate treatment for your symptoms once the cause is known.

So, when can you self-diagnose a yeast infection? Women who have had yeast infections before may recognize the symptoms and find over-the-counter medications convenient for treatment. Otherwise, making an appointment with your doctor is your surest way to get the right treatment for you.

Can I treat my yeast infection while I have my period?

Yes. Yeast infections can be treated while you have your period. If you get your period after starting a medication, continue using it until you complete the entire recommended length of treatment. If your period is due soon, you might want to choose a product that works with just one dose so that the infection can be treated before you get your period.

I'm pregnant and have a yeast infection. Is this a common problem during pregnancy? Why is it happening?

Many women experience yeast infections during pregnancy. Although bothersome, they can usually be treated easily without harming you or your baby.

Why do they happen during pregnancy? The increase in the level of the hormone estrogen is the likely cause of yeast infections during pregnancy. It causes changes to the acid levels of the vagina, making it easier for yeast to grow. Yeast infections may also occur in women taking birth control pills that contain estrogen, because these medications simulate pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor about selecting the treatment that's right for you. This is a decision that you and your doctor need to make to ensure that both mother and baby are safe.

My doctor recently diagnosed me with diabetes. I'm trying to control my blood sugar level, but it's not easy. Since my diagnosis, I've been noticing more frequent yeast infections. Is there a link?

It's true - there is a link between diabetes and yeast infections. Higher-than-normal blood sugar levels due to diabetes may cause yeast to overgrow. Yeast uses sugar to grow within the vagina, sometimes out of control. The result is a yeast infection that can be a bothersome problem for many women with diabetes.

Speak to your doctor about ways of controlling your blood sugar level to keep yeast infections to a minimum. The right combination of exercise, a healthy diet, medication, and monitoring your blood sugar regularly will help you to keep your blood sugar level near normal.

Is there anything I can do to prevent yeast infections?

Yes. Here are some "do's and "don'ts" that might help:

Do:

  • wear cotton underwear
  • wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom
  • dry the area off well after a shower
  • change tampons frequently

Don't:

  • keep a wet bathing suit or sweaty gym clothes on for too long
  • wear tight-fitting pants, jeans, or pantyhose
  • use douches, feminine sprays, perfumed tampons, deodorant pads, bubble bath, or coloured or perfumed toilet paper

If you think you have a yeast infection, speak to your doctor. Tests can determine whether or not it is a yeast infection, and what treatment you need.

It seems like I have a yeast infection all the time. I don't think that the products I buy at the pharmacy are working anymore. What can I do?

About 5% of women have recurrent yeast infections (more than four infections in the last year or at least three infections in the last year that are unrelated to antibiotic use). Here are some common causes of frequent yeast infections:

  • frequent use of antibiotics
  • use of immune-suppressing medications
  • use of contraceptives
  • a weakened immune system
  • uncontrolled diabetes
  • wearing of tight-fitting clothes
  • frequent sexual activity
  • improper use of yeast infection medication (e.g., missing doses, or stopping treatment early)

Sometimes frequent infections occur because they have been treated with medications that are not effective against the type of yeast that is causing the problem. Although Candida albicans is the most common type of yeast that causes yeast infections, harder-to-treat types, such as Candida glabrata, can also infect the vagina and are more commonly in the cause of recurrent infections. Resistance, where the yeast adapts to a medication so it is harder to treat, is another cause of frequent yeast infections. Over-the-counter products available at the pharmacy may be less effective at treating infections caused by yeast other than Candida albicans, or in cases where resistance may play a role. This highlights the importance of having your yeast infection properly diagnosed so that you can receive the most appropriate treatment.

Are 1-day yeast infection treatments better than 3- or 7-day treatments?

Shorter treatments contain higher amounts of medication per dose than longer treatments. For most women, yeast infection treatments are about 80% to 90% effective whether a 1-, 3-, 6-, or 7-day treatment is chosen. So you or your doctor can choose the medication and the length of treatment based on your preferences. If you and your doctor decide to use a product with a longer treatment, keep in mind that you must continue the treatment for the full course, even if your symptoms start to improve, to prevent the infection from returning or becoming resistant to the medication.


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