Yeast Infections: Key Q&A

What is a yeast infection?
A vaginal yeast infection is a form of vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina. It is caused by an overabundance of Candida, a microscopic fungus that normally inhabits the vagina. The normal acidic environment of the vagina helps keep the yeast from growing. If the vagina becomes less acidic, too many Candida fungi can grow and cause a vaginal infection.

How common are yeast infections?
Vaginal yeast infections are very common among adult women. During a lifetime, 75 percent of all women will experience at least one yeast infection and up to 45 percent have two or more.

What causes yeast infections?
Candida
can overgrow in the vagina for many reasons. Pregnancy, diabetes and other illnesses can promote the growth of the fungus, and certain medications, such as birth control pills and antibiotics, may cause vaginal yeast infections.

How are yeast infections related to diabetes?
Yeast flourishes if a woman's blood sugar is high. For that reason, women who have uncontrolled diabetes are at a higher risk for yeast infections. In fact, recurring yeast infections are often the first sign of diabetes in women. This is why it is important that you consult your gynecologist if you are experiencing multiple yeast infections.

How are yeast infections related to menstruation?
Vaginal tissues are often more sensitive prior to menstruation. Feelings of itchiness during this time may simply be a part of your body's normal fluctuations. If itchiness subsides after menstruation, treatment for yeast infection is usually not necessary.

However, hormonal fluctuations that occur during your cycle can lead to yeast overgrowth. You may notice that yeast infections appear prior to your menstrual period because of these hormonal changes.

Finally, certain feminine products and practices can increase the risk of yeast infections. Deodorant tampons, douches, feminine cleansers and other similar products should be avoided. Also, you should be careful to avoid wearing pads or using tampons for extended periods of time.

Can tight clothing cause yeast infections?
Yes. Clothes, especially undergarments, may cause yeast infections if they are too tight or made of synthetic materials. These clothes can trap heat and moisture, creating an environment in which yeast can thrive. Also, if you remain in wet clothes, such as a bathing suit or exercise apparel, you may be more susceptible to a yeast infection.

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