Vaginal yeast infection: Why the vagina itches and burns
A vaginal yeast infection is an infection of the vagina caused by yeasts of the Candida family. The main cause for the spread of the yeast is a weakened vaginal flora, which is no longer able to produce sufficient lactic acid bacteria to maintain the vaginal pH in the physiologically acidic range. This results in itching, burning, reddening and increased cottage cheese-like discharge.
Why do occur vaginal yeast infections?
To understand why vaginal yeast infections occur requires a brief digression to the subject of the vaginal flora. Vaginal flora refers to the natural colonisation of the vagina by bacteria and fungi. These are mostly lactic acid bacteria (lactobacilli), more precisely Döderlein’s bacteria. They ferment the polysaccharide glycogen to lactic acid, which creates a stable, acidic pH in the vagina that prevents fungal multiplication. Glycogen is formed in the cell layers lining the vagina under the influence of the hormone oestrogen. A disturbance of the sensitive balance of the vaginal flora results in sudden multiplication of fungi, which displaces the beneficial lactic acid bacteria. This results in a vaginal yeast infection.
The composition of the vaginal flora changes over the course of our lives. The menstrual cycle, but also our age influence the vaginal balance. Hence, women in menopause experience an oestrogen deficiency, which leads to vaginal dryness. This in turn disturbs the balance of the vaginal flora, facilitating the growth of yeasts.
Measuring the vaginal pH is also useful in the context of prenatal care, as pregnancy hormones and the sensitive immune system facilitate vaginal infections. Upon first suspicion of a vaginal yeast infection, you should consult a doctor and treat the infection consistently. There is a good body of data demonstrating that active ingredients such as clotrimazole are safe during pregnancy. Nevertheless, intake should be discussed with a doctor.
for protecting yourself against vaginal yeast infection:
Clean your intimate area gently with a special intimate wash lotion or with water only to avoid disturbing the natural milieu.
Change washcloths and underwear daily and wash them at least at 60°C.
Avoid using non-breathable trousers and underwear made of synthetic materials that cannot be washed at high temperatures.
If your partner is suspected of being infected, he should seek medical advice and, if necessary, also undergo treatment.
Do not use intimate deodorants or vaginal douches – these too disrupt the natural balance.
A vaginal yeast infection can have many causes:
A vaginal yeast infection may be caused by internal and external factors; what they all have in common is that they exert an influence on the vaginal flora.
The most important factors that can disrupt vaginal flora include:
- weakened immune system
- hormonal fluctuations
- excessive intimate hygiene
- certain drugs
Is vaginal yeast infection a sexually transmitted infection?
It itches and burns, the vagina is swollen and secretes a white, crumbly discharge. When experiencing these symptoms, many women fear an STI (sexually transmitted infection). This is not surprising, as certain sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, are characterised by symptoms similar to that of a vaginal yeast infection.
The difference is that a sexually transmitted infection is transmitted through sexual intercourse. A vaginal yeast infection, on the other hand, develops when the biological equilibrium of the genital area changes. This happens when drugs, menopause, pregnancy or even psychological stress trigger fluctuations in the hormonal balance. As a consequence, the number of lactic acid bacteria decreases, and the natural pH of the intimate area increases. During this phase, yeasts multiply rapidly resulting in a vaginal yeast infection.
Another cause of a vaginal yeast infection is improper intimate hygiene. Candida yeasts also occur in the intestine. Wiping incorrectly or changing from anal to vaginal sex can facilitate the entry of yeasts into the vagina, where they multiply. If you would like to know how men get penile yeast infections, read the section Vaginal Yeast Infection and Sexuality. This chapter also describes why some women suffer from a persistent vaginal yeast infection.
Another difference is that, if left untreated, sexually transmitted infection lead to serious health problems – while vaginal yeast is not a threat.
So, once again, as reassurance: vaginal yeast is absolutely not a sexually transmitted infection, but a fungal infection. Although the infection is not dangerous, the symptoms are burdensome. The most effective way to get rid of vaginal yeast is a 3-day treatment.
How to recognise a vaginal yeast infection?
A vaginal yeast infection usually manifests as vaginal pruritus, which subsequently increases in intensity. This may also be accompanied by a burning sensation in the genital area. Initially, the burning sensation occurs upon mechanical irritation of the vagina. For example, when inserting a tampon or during sexual intercourse. Over the further course of the disease, the burning sensation occurs also in absence of an irritation. It may increase in intensity and persist permanently.
A common accompanying symptom is increased, white, often crumbly vaginal discharge. As the otherwise milky-white discharge, also called fluor vaginalis, contains fermented lactic acid, it becomes crumbly. In contrast to bacterial vaginosis, the vaginal discharge associated with vaginal yeast infection is odourless.
The genital labia and vaginal entrance are often red and swollen. Many women also describe an uncomfortable burning sensation when urinating.
These symptoms may occur alone or together. The severity of symptoms also varies from woman to woman. Even asymptomatic cases of vaginal yeast infection may occur, which are only diagnosed by a vaginal smear at the gynaecologist.
The symptoms of vaginal yeast infection are usually so characteristic that they are recognised as such by every woman. If unsure, a consultation with a pharmacist is advisable, as vaginal yeast can be treated with over-the-counter medications.
Only rarely is a visit to the gynaecologist absolutely necessary. When the vaginal yeast infection:
- occurs for the first time
- occurs during pregnancy
- occurs more than 3 to 4 times a year
- does not resolve despite treatment with a fungicide (antifungal agent)
Unfortunately, the vaginal discomfort does not disappear on its own – neither by washing nor by wiping, and certainly not by waiting.
What helps against vaginal yeast infections?
Although a vaginal yeast infection is uncomfortable, it is also easy to treat. You should stay away from home remedies, such as tampons soaked in yoghurt, vinegar rinses or sitz baths. To find out why, please read the chapter Home Remedies for Vaginal Yeast Infections. Treatments for vaginal yeast infections that are actually effective consist of medications for vaginal yeast (antimycotics), such as KadeFungin 3. If the vagina and the outer genital area (e.g. labia) are affected, a combination treatment consisting of cream and vaginal tablets works reliably.
The KadeFungin 3 cream (KadeFungin 3 Vaginalcreme) is applied to the outer genital area and quickly relieves the uncomfortable itching and burning sensation. It can be applied extensively several times a day to the itchy areas from the perineum to the anus.
The vaginal tablet must be inserted deep into the vagina. It liquefies and acts from the inside. In doing so, it treats the entire vaginal lining affected by the yeast. Ideally, the vaginal tablet is inserted before going to bed. Use of a vaginal tablet during menstruation makes little sense. The active substance, such as clotrimazole, is flushed out by the bleeding.
Adherence to the prescribed treatment time of the medication (to be found in the package leaflet) is essential for successful treatment. If the therapy is ended earlier than specified, there is a risk that not all yeast has been killed and the infection will return.
What to do in case of recurrent vaginal yeast infection?
In women suffering from recurrent vaginal yeast infections, the cause of the body’s lack of defence against the yeast must be determined. For sooner or later, the typical symptoms such as discharge and pruritus are also followed by emotional problems. One wonders what is wrong with one’s own body. Relationships may suffer due to missing out on sex life. You may be afraid of pain during sex, of infecting your partner and that the vicious cycle will never end.
There are many reasons why vaginal yeast infections keep returning. Psychological stress, drug intake, certain conditions such as diabetes mellitus, but also improper intimate hygiene or a weakened immune system can be the reason for frequently occurring vaginal yeast infections. Resistance to the active ingredient of the antimycotic agent is also conceivable, although this only happens in rare cases.
Vaginal yeast infections occurring more than four times a year are referred by doctors to as recurrent vaginal mycosis. In such cases, further approaches should be discussed with the doctor, and the triggering factor be identified. Here, a smear can provide information about the type of yeast causing the vaginal infection. For, in addition to Candida albicans, vaginal yeast infections are also caused by Candida glabrata, Candida tropicalis or Candida krusei.
Depending on the result, the local treatment of the vaginal yeast infection must be intensified by taking tablets. In some cases, the partner may also require treatment. It is quite possible that he too has been infected with the yeast and keeps infecting the partner time and again during sexual intercourse.
Another reason for recurrent vaginal yeast infections could be that the duration of treatment has been too short. It is extremely important to observe the recommended length of treatment for vaginal yeast infection. A 3-day treatment effectively combats the infection. A premature discontinuation of the antimycotic agent, however, enables the pathogen to reproduce again. The symptoms then flare up again after a very short time.
Women who suspect suffering from a chronic vaginal yeast infections – that is, those actually suffering from recurrent vaginal mycosis – should take a holistic view of the problem. Avoid anything that weakens your compromised immune system. And do something good for your troubled vaginal flora. A healthy vagina is colonised by a natural bacterial population, consisting mainly of lactobacilli. These lactic acid bacteria ensure an acidic pH of the vagina. The acidic pH inhibits growth of pathogens and keeps the vagina at equilibrium. A regenerating therapy, for example with KadeFungin FloraProtect, regenerates and stabilises the vaginal milieu.
When should you consult a doctor for a vaginal yeast infection?
Vaginal yeast is often well treatable using over-the-counter drugs obtainable from pharmacies. In certain cases, however, a doctor should be consulted, for example if:
- the symptoms of vaginal yeast infection occur for the first time
- a vaginal yeast infection keeps returning time and again
- you are pregnant and suspect a vaginal yeast infection
- additional symptoms such as fever are present
- the treatment is ineffective despite correct application
Especially pregnant women who suspect having a vaginal yeast infection should always consult a gynaecologist. Although vaginal yeast during pregnancy is usually not too much of a problem, it must always be treated. Treatment can – just as easily as in non-pregnant women – be carried out using KadeFungin 3. Safety of the active ingredient clotrimazole for use in pregnancy has been well studied.
KadeFungin products for vaginal yeast
The 3-day therapy with KadeFungin 3, with the active ingredient clotrimazole, is an effective, quick-acting and well-tolerated treatment for acute symptoms of vaginal yeast infections. The medicinal product is available over-the-counter in pharmacies without the need for a prior visit to a doctor. KadeFungin 3 can be used:
- for symptoms of vaginal yeast infection, such as pruritus, burning and redness in the genital area
- as an effective 3-day therapy
- for vaginal yeast infections during pregnancy and lactation.*
*after consulting a doctor
Following a vaginal yeast infection, it is important for the vaginal flora to recover. A follow-up treatment with KadeFungin FloraProtect is recommended so that it can regenerate and stabilise. The restoration therapy contains the lactic acid bacterium Lactobacillus plantarum l 1001, which rebuilds the vaginal flora and is therefore suitable:
- as follow-up treatment of vaginal yeast infection
- as an aid to prevent recurrent vaginal yeast infections*
*Clinical evidence of efficacy in preventing recurrent vaginal infections has been demonstrated for use over 2 months.