According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a yeast infection (aka vaginal candidiasis) is a fungal infection that causes major vajayjay irritation: itching, swelling, and pain during sex or when you pee.
Getting a yeast infection right before your period is actually pretty common. Here’s why — and what to do about it.
In a word: hormones.
Healthy vaginas have a delicate balance of bacteria and yeast.
The same hormone fluctuations that trigger your period can also change bacteria levels in your vag. When the balance between bacteria and yeast gets thrown off, you could get an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida albicans.
Candida albicans overgrowth leads to — you guessed it! — yeast infections.
According to a research review, about 39 percent of people with vaginas have a yeast infection at any given time, and an average of 23 percent of people with vaginas have multiple yeast infections each year (the more you know 💫).
Here are some tell-tale yeast infection symptoms.
- vaginal pain or soreness
- swelling of your vulva
- vaginal rash
- irritated or itchy vagina and vulva
- burning or stinging during sex
- vaginal burning or stinging when you pee
- thick, white, odorless vaginal discharge
Yeast infections are typically easy to treat. These are signs that you have a more serious yeast infection (in other words, talk with a doc!):
Feeling miserable? Don’t worry. Yeast infections are a pretty easy fix.
Common medical treatments
Treatment generally depends on the severity of your infection. Some yeast infections can be treated with an over-the-counter (OTC) medication, but some require a prescription from your doc.
Yeasty meds include:
- OTC creams, ointments, tablets, or suppositories like miconazole (Monistat) or Clotrimazole
- a single dose of a prescribed antifungal like fluconazole (Diflucan)
- a 3- to 7-day course of antifungal meds inserted into your vagina
If you have a severe or recurring infection, your doc might recommend:
- 2 doses of fluconazole, taken 3 days apart
- Azole resident therapy (a boric acid capsule inserted into your vag)
- a longer course of antifungal meds (may involve inserting meds into your bits every day for up to 2 weeks, then once a week for up to 6 months)
PSA for the sexually active peeps: Topical yeast infection treatments could mess with your birth control method. The oils in antifungal meds can weaken the latex in condoms and diaphragms. Proceed with caution.
Home remedies don’t technically *cure* a yeast infection. But they may help speed up your OTC or prescription treatment.
Here are some weapons in your yeast-fighting arsenal.
A 2006 research review suggested that probiotics prevent Candida albicans growth, which could help prevent yeast infections. However, experts say that there’s not enough quality evidence to prove probiotics’ vaginal fungus-fighting power.
Wanna try anyway? Boost your probiotic intake by eating at least 4 ounces of plain Greek yogurt per day.
You can also take probiotic supplements that contain lactobacillus acidophilus, which helps rebalance your bod’s yeast-to-bacteria ratio. Some folks also use probiotic supplements as a vaginal suppository.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. This could make it a viable option for fighting yeast infections. One study suggested that vaginal suppositories containing tea tree oil *might* aid yeast infection treatment.
Pure tea tree oil is super potent. Avoid irritation by diluting it with a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil before applying it to any part of your body. And don’t use it too often. Once every few weeks may be enough to make a difference.
It’s important to note that using tea tree oil to treat a yeast infection is not mainstream treatment and should only be done under the supervision of a medical professional.
Tips to prevent a yeasty
Good hoo-ha hygiene is key to stopping yeast infections before they start. Like any kind of yeast, Candida albicans loves warm, moist (yep, we’re wincing too) environments.
Follow these tips to prevent a fungus-friendly vag:
- Avoid tight clothing (permission to swap those skinnies for sweats!).
- Wear breathable cotton undies.
- Change your pads and tampons regularly.
- Avoid scented tampons and liners — or any other sprays, perfumes, or powders.
- Keep your bits clean by regularly washing with unscented soap and water.
- Take off your swimsuit, workout gear, or other wet clothing ASAP.
- Wipe front to back so that you avoid spreading bacteria.
- Avoid antibiotics (unless prescribed by your doc).
Not-so-fun fact: Some people are just more prone to yeast infections.
They might also take a swab of vaginal fluid to figure out what strain of fungus is causing your infection. This can seem a bit invasive, but it’s all part of determining the best treatment plan for you.
Yeast infections are fairly common. Most are also easily treated with OTC meds.
But if you think you have a yeast infection for the first time *or* you’re getting them on the reg, it’s a good idea to talk with your doc for a diagnosis. This could help you identify or eliminate concern for health probs with similar symptoms.
Contact your doctor if you: