Women's Health: Vaginal Candidiasis
Overview
Vaginal candidiasis, also referred to as a vaginal yeast infection, is most often caused by the fungus Candida albicans. Vaginal candidiasis is very common, occurring in 75% of all women at some time in their life, and is not considered to be a sexually transmitted disease.

Signs and Symptoms
The following are common symptoms associated with vaginal candidiasis:
  • Irritated vaginal area
  • Vaginal discharge that is thick and white or gray (similar to cottage cheese)
  • Vaginal itching or burning
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Pain during intercourse

Causes/Common Triggers
Candida albicans is a fungus/yeast that lives naturally in balance with other organisms in the vagina, but when the balance is disrupted, the fungus can grow uncontrolled, leading to an infection. Some triggers that may upset the balance in the vagina include:
  • Antibiotic use
  • Steroid use
  • Diabetes
  • A weakened immune system
  • Hormonal changes
  • Tight-fitting underwear
  • Pregnancy

Tests and Diagnosis
Clinicians can diagnose vaginal candidiasis by assessing reported symptoms and performing a pelvic examination. Urine and vaginal discharge may also be tested. If an infection is resistant to medication or frequently recurs, a culture of the vaginal discharge may be performed.

Prevention
Women can prevent vaginal candidiasis by taking the following steps:
  • Avoid excessive moisture in vaginal area
  • Wear loose-fitting, cotton underwear
  • Avoid the use of douches or feminine hygiene products
  • Avoid irritations from products such as tampons

Management
Appropriate management of vaginal candidiasis includes maintaining proper hygiene of the vaginal area and avoiding excessive moisture by:
  • Changing out of a wet bathing suit after swimming
  • Changing out of sweaty clothes after exercising
  • Keeping the vaginal area dry after showering

In addition, the treatment plan developed by the clinician should be followed accordingly, and OTC products can be taken as directed.

Treatment and Care
Patients should consult with their physician to develop an optimal treatment plan. If symptoms of the infection do not alleviate or become worse with OTC medication and proper hygiene, the physician should be informed, to plan a further course of treatment.

Homeopathic and Alternative Remedies
Alternative therapies may be used to help supplement the main course of treatment. These can include the following:
  • Consuming yogurt daily
  • Taking Lactobacillus acidophilus tablets (as directed by a physician)
  • Taking sodium bicarbonate sitz baths
Self-Care
Vaginal candidiasis that is considered mild and uncomplicated and is not an individual’s first occurrence can be treated effectively using OTC medications such as vaginal antifungal creams and/or suppositories. A pharmacist should always be consulted for proper use and length of treatment. To prevent drug interactions or contraindications, patients should inform the pharmacist of all other medications they are taking.

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