Yeast infections are common and nothing to be embarrassed about.
Three out of four women will get it at some point in their life and it can hit you at any age between puberty and menopause.
Also known as candidiasis, it occurs when there's an excessive amount of a naturally-occurring fungus - called candida, a type of yeast - in the vaginal area.
Your vagina might have small amounts of yeast at any given time but it's only when there's an abundance of it that it becomes a problem.
How Do I Know If I Have It?
Look out for the following symptoms, although you might not have all of them and they could range from mild to severe:
- Itchiness in and around the vaginal area
- A burning feeling as well as swelling of the vagina and the vulva
- Pain during sex
- Pain when urinating
- A thick, odourless vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese
How Is It Treated?
A yeast infection can clear up on its own but, if it doesn't, you can treat it with over-the-counter anti-fungal creams or pessaries available from pharmacies.
However, it's best to see a doctor if this is the first time you've experienced such symptoms (instead of self-diagnosing) so that she can confirm it as there are some other conditions - such as STIs - that have similar symptoms too.
How Can I Prevent It?
The overgrowth of fungus happens when internal or external factors change the normal environment of your vagina. Here are some tips to prevent this from happening:
- Wear cotton underwear - yeast thrives in damp environments and cotton absorbs moisture and perspiration better.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting jeans and trousers - loose-fitting trousers will keep your vaginal area cool and dry.
- Keep dry - get out of wet or sweaty clothes (or your swimsuit) as soon as possible so that yeast has no excuse to grow. Also make sure you wipe yourself dry after you've had a shower.
- Avoid perfumed products - things such as scented tampons and vaginal douches could affect the level of yeast in your vaginal area.
- Wipe it right - always wipe from front to back after you've been to the bathroom, as this prevents bacteria from your anus transferring to your vagina.