Caused by an overgrowth of candida albicans, a fungus, yeast infections are the most common of all vaginal infections. Yeast infections are not sexually transmitted and are often caused by menopause. Of all vaginal infections, yeast infections are one of the main symptoms of menopause, caused by the fluctuating hormones leading to bacteria in the vagina going out of control. Baths, excess moisture in the vagina, or damp or tight clothes may lead to yeast infections. The signs of yeast infection during menopause, as well as otherwise, are: inflammation, continued itching and irritation, pain during intercourse, frequent urination, and a thick, white discharge from your vagina.
With the drop of estrogen levels during menopause, the walls of your vagina become thinner and weak. During intercourse, the walls become irritated, leaving tiny scars and scratches, enabling bacteria to thrive. Higher levels of estrogen, due to hormone replacement therapy (HRT), also increase the chance of yeast infections. Damp and moist vagina, due to increased vaginal discharge caused by higher levels of estrogen, is a great breeding ground for yeast and bacteria.
Menopause, Yeast Infections and Treatment
Yeast infections can be treated by OTC (Over-The-Counter) medication in the form of creams and suppositories. Before using these medications, it is always advisable to have a proper diagnosis of yeast infections. Trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection, and other types of vaginal infections have symptoms similar to yeast infections. This makes it imperative to confirm that you actually have yeast infection before starting medication. Although creams and suppositories are sold as OTC medications, you will need prescription for oral medicines.
Before resorting to strong medications, you could try the following alternate treatments for yeast infections:
- Tea Tree Oil: Seek professional advice before trying this treatment. Tea tree oil suppositories kill yeast infections present in the vagina.
- Yogurt: Many women suffering from yeast infections apply un-pasteurized yogurt, which contains lactobacillus acidophilus or ‘good’ bacteria, directly into the vagina. You could use a small spoon, a spatula or an old vaginal cream applicator, to apply yogurt at night for three to seven nights to restore the balance of bacteria in your vagina. You may need to put on a sanitary pad to avoid messiness.
Avoiding Yeast Infections
Yeast infections, unfortunately, tend to recur. To prevent recurrence, or to prevent having it in the first place, you could try the following:
- During shower, wash the vaginal area to keep it clean, and completely dry it before dressing.
- Cotton panties and pantyhose with a cotton crotch are preferable.
- Do not share towels.
- Undergarments should be washed in hot water and avoid using softeners.
- After a swim or a workout, change your clothes immediately.
- Do not use scented sanitary pads or tampons, and frequently change them.
- Avoid douching, using heavily scented soaps, perfumes and talcum powders.
- During sex, ensure your vagina is well lubricated, and use water-soluble lubricating jells.
- It is better to avoid sex, if it is painful.