Yeast infections (or vulvovaginal candidiasis, to use the medical term) occur when the vagina has an excess of the yeast fungus candida. Small populations of candida live naturally in the gastrointestinal tract and other warm, moist areas of the body.
Up to 3 in 4 women experience a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime; 50 percent of women will suffer from a yeast infection more than once.
Some women, however, get yeast infections much more frequently. If you suffer from yeast infections four times or more in one year, you may have recurrent or chronic vulvovaginal candidiasis.
It is not entirely sure why some women experience yeast infections much more often than others. However, researchers have identified several risk factors:
- Hormonal changes, including from pregnancy, birth control pills and estrogen therapies
- Frequent antibiotic use. Antibiotics kill vaginal bacteria that keep candida in check
- Uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. Increased sugar levels in the vaginal membrane encourages yeast growth.
- Conditions that affect the immune system, like HIV
- Skin folds can give candida fungus warm, moist areas to grow
- Tight, synthetic clothes, which also keeps the vaginal area warm
There are a number things you can do to make the vaginal area less vulnerable to candida fungus.
- Wear cotton underwear and more breathable materials
- Wipe from front to back after using the toilet
- Take antibiotics only when necessary
- Avoid douching
- Do not have sex until the yeast infection is gone
Do you get frequent yeast infections? You may qualify for Segal Institute’s clinical research study on vulvovaginal candidiasis?