A yeasty ordeal
You’d think all you have to do is keep your ‘down there’ parts clean and tidy, wear fresh underwear and drink plenty of water (on most days, at least) and you should be fine.
CHENNAI: You’d think all you have to do is keep your ‘down there’ parts clean and tidy, wear fresh underwear and drink plenty of water (on most days, at least) and you should be fine. So I thought till about of yeast infection had me questioning all my hygiene lessons around vagina care. In the face of intense itching, soreness, excessive discharge and constant pain (not to mention the smell), and the automatic hesitancy to even take it up with my mother, I relied on the elixir of coconut oil and the very debated vaginal wash to handle the unspeakable. It took three long weeks for my vagina to return to peacetime conditions. It wasn’t until much later that I found out that all my suffering needed was seven days and some prescription pills.
It was that one vital piece of decision-making that made the experience marginally tolerable for 21-year-old Prathiksha Varadarajan. As soon as she noticed the symptoms, she promptly made an appointment with her gynaecologist. While the going got better, it wasn’t without its practical problems. “I felt uncomfortable just sitting on a chair. I wasn’t able to wear tight pants or jeans; I preferred loose shorts and track pants instead. It was really difficult peeing since my clit would burn. My gynaecologist prescribed a powder to ease the irritation,” she shares.
What to watch for
Yeast infection is common among women and often unclean bathrooms are considered the main cause. But, Dr A Jaishree Gajaraj, senior consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology at MGM Healthcare, says there’s more to it. “The vagina already has a balanced presence of yeast, bacteria and candida. But, when that balance gets disrupted, there is an overgrowth of candida or the fungus that penetrates into the vaginal cells, causing the infection. An overgrowth of yeast can also result from steroids, pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes, a weak immune system or contraceptive pills,” she explains.
Pregnant women and those with diabetes are at constant risk of getting the infection, as their immune system is already compromised. “Diabetic people, in general, have higher levels of sugar in their blood, making them susceptible to the infection. And in the case of pregnant women, a change in their hormones disrupts the pH value in the vagina, giving way to the infection,” says Dr Geetha C Haripriya, gynaecologist, Prashanth Fertility Research Centre.
Among the basic symptoms are burning sensations, redness and swelling of the vulva, vaginal rash and soreness. The doctors rule out the consumption of any particular food as a cause for the infection.
Like anything associated with women’s nether regions, yeast infection is also looked at as a taboo topic and not commonly discussed. So much so that women even refrain from visiting a doctor and, instead, rely on information from the Internet to treat the infection. But, gynaecologists warn against home remedies as it may lead to further infections around the vagina.
Yeast infection vs UTI
The symptoms of yeast infection might be similar to that of urinary tract infection (UTI). But, they are completely different, notes Dr Jaishree. “When you have yeast infection, you’ll have a thick white discharge and itching. But, in UTI, one will pass urine frequently and also have discomfort during. Some may even pass blood along with the urine,” she explains.
Men’s problem too
An oft-ignored side of this disease is that men are also susceptible to yeast infection. Unless men are thoroughly examined by a urologist or a general practitioner, it isn’t unlikely for them to have a positive test report for the infection. Dr MG Shekar, a urologist, further explains, “This infection can grow in middle-aged or older men with an uncircumcised penis; more so if they are diabetic, obese or are on diabetic medication. It can also be sexually transmitted. Their symptoms include pain and irritation on the glans (head of the penis), redness, itchiness under the foreskin, swelling, white discharge under the foreskin, foul smell, painful urination or sores on the glans.”
Talking about the preventative measures that men can take, he insists on maintaining hygiene along with a few other points. “Retracting the prepuce (foreskin) and cleaning it thoroughly, keeping diabetes under control, using condoms during intercourse and prophylactic circumcision are some of them. But if they are asymptomatic, they can pass on the infection to women during sexual contact,” he says.
A vag guide
Three out of four women experience this infection at some point in their life. At least two episodes are common.
If you have the infection four times in a row, it is termed as a recurrent yeast infection. For this, there is a prolonged treatment.
Wear cotton panties that aren’t too tight.
Maintain utmost hygiene. Carry disposable toilet seat covers if office washrooms can’t be trusted.
During the medication period, carry any cream or powder prescribed for irritation or secondary symptoms to office as well; just in case.
Source: Dr Padmapriya Vivek, the Head of Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Gleneagles Global Health City