Development, treatment and prevention of vaginal yeast
A vaginal yeast infection, also known as vaginal thrush or, medically, vaginal mycosis, is amongst the subjects that women prefer not to discuss. For many, the diagnosis is a source of great embarrassment. But a vaginal yeast infection is, in fact, one of the most commonly encountered gynaecological diseases. And although the symptoms are very unpleasant, treatment is normally straightforward, and the course of the disease is harmless.
Yeast fungi occur naturally on human skin and mucous membranes without causing any symptoms; by themselves, they are not an indicator of illness. Only when certain other circumstances arise that weaken the immune system, such as illness or the use of medicines, are the yeast able to spread. This then results in the unpleasant symptoms such as pruritus (itching) and a crumbly white discharge.
Vaginal mycosis – key facts at a glance
In this box, we have summarised all the relevant and useful information from this extensive article for you.
Where does the fungal infection come from? Various microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, are naturally present in our bodies without making us ill. Specific factors that weaken our immune defences create an environment in which fungi can spread, resulting in the classic symptoms of a fungal infection.
The typical symptoms of a fungal infection in the genital area are: itching, redness and swelling of the labia, and a white, crumbly but odourless discharge.
Treating vaginal mycosis: Treatment of a vaginal fungal infection involves an anti-fungal agent (antimycotic). The recommended and well-established approach is a 3-day treatment with clotrimazole. An applicator helps to insert the medication in the form of vaginal tablets.
In general, even healthy people have yeast fungi. They are found, for example, in the mouth and throat, in the gastrointestinal tract and in the vagina. The most common cause of vaginal mycosis is Candida albicans. Other strains, such as Candida glabrata and Candida krusei, are much less common. Various microorganisms live in balance in the vagina, keeping the natural vaginal flora of the genital area stable. The most important bacteria here are lactic acid bacteria, also known as lactobacilli or Döderlein bacteria. In conjunction with a woman’s immune system, they protect against germs and prevent them from spreading.
Fungi thrive in the moist, warm and acidic environment of the vagina. They feed on glucose, which occurs naturally in an adult woman, influenced by oestrogen. In a healthy vaginal environment, they exist in balance with the protective lactobacilli and other microorganisms. For many women, yeast colonies are therefore evident in the vagina without any symptoms of illness.
The unpleasant symptoms of a fungal infection only arise when the body’s defence mechanisms are disrupted, allowing the yeast to multiply pathogenically. Substantial triggers include a weakened immune system, allergies and stress. Furthermore, a prior antibiotic therapy or other necessary medications such as glucocorticoids (cortisone) and chemotherapeutics (cytostatics) can make it easier for fungal infections. Hormonal changes, such as a pregnancy, also increase the likelihood of a fungal infection. Thyroid disorders (hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease), neurodermatitis and diabetes mellitus are also associated with an increased tendency to vaginal mycosis. In the case of diabetes mellitus, for example, several factors are involved in the development of a fungal infection. The increased blood sugar level, in conjunction with a weakened immune system, can lead to a mycosis.
Other factors such as a compromised barrier function (for example due to excessive hygiene), sweating and heat all create an ideal environment for a fungal infection (mycosis) to develop.
Typical symptoms of vaginal fungus infections are itching and an odourless, white, crumbly discharge. The outer genital area is very red and swollen, making it feel sore. There can also be white patches on the mucosa. A burning sensation and pain passing urine and during sexual intercourse are also possible. Should a discharge be odorous or of a different colour, this suggests a bacterial infection which should be checked by a doctor.
Vaginal yeast is treated with an anti-fungal agent, known medically as an antimycotic. These substances limit the growth of a fungus or kill it. Clotrimazole is a particularly effective example and also well-established. Clotrimazole is a broad-spectrum antimycotic with antibacterial properties. It is used for the treatment of fungal infections (mycoses).
The well-established 3-day therapy prevents the growth of the fungus through various mechanisms. Targeted therapy is achieved by using vaginal tablets. Creams are also available for treating external areas. A vaginal fungal infection has a significant impact on a woman’s sense of wellbeing. Left untreated, it can also lead to complications and, if the immune system is compromised, spread to internal organs. Simple, effective treatment with an anti-fungal agent (antimycotic) such as Vagiflor ®mykomed 200 mg vaginal tablets can alleviate the troublesome symptoms and promote healing.
Unbearable itching, very red and sore skin and an unusual discharge – normally, a gynaecologist has no difficulty identifying and treating yeast infections.
Yeast infections (mycoses) are much less common than is generally assumed. In fact, only approximately one third of patients who are checked for mycosis actually have a yeast infection. As the symptoms can also be caused by mixed infections (both fungal infection and bacteria are present), it is always worth consulting your gynaecologist.
Based on symptoms and a brief examination, the gynaecologist will quickly be able to evaluate the condition. With the help of a swab, the vaginal secretion is examined under a microscope. A fungal infection is recognisable from its typical appearance. If the symptoms recur, the doctor will create a fungal culture. This will allow the actual fungus to be identified so that the therapy can be adjusted. In rare cases, a systemic treatment with oral tablets is chosen.
When should you consult a doctor?
Following on from thorough consultation at the pharmacy, most affected women treat a vaginal fungus infection independently at home. In certain cases, however, it is advisable to consult a doctor, for example if:
Anti-fungal agents such as clotrimazole work quickly and reliably to alleviate the burdensome symptoms of a yeast infection. Considering the extreme unpleasantness suffered with a yeast infection, it is understandable that women want rapid alleviation of the symptoms. Anti-fungal drugs are available over the counter from pharmacies. Women affected can therefore respond at the first sign of a fungal infection with adequate treatment of the symptoms. An applicator helps to insert the medication in the form of vaginal tablets. Where the fungal infection affects the external areas of the vagina, a clotrimazole cream is available.
It is not necessary to treat the woman’s partner if no symptoms are present.
Chronic-recurrent vaginal candidiasis
Once a vaginal fungus infection occurs at least four times a year, we speak of a chronic, i.e. recurrent, fungal infection in the genital area. This affects around 5 percent of women. Chronic-recurrent vaginal fungal infections require detailed medical examination. Laboratory checks for viruses and bacteria combined with a fungal culture allow the exact pathogen to be determined and the appropriate therapy chosen. The doctor also has to determine why the fungal infection keeps recurring. Possible accompanying illnesses and other risk factors must be considered. Previously undiagnosed diabetes mellitus, for example, could be responsible for recurrent vaginal mycosis. Stress is also a substantial factor, because ongoing strain has been shown to weaken the immune system.
If the fungal infection keeps recurring, an additional examination of the partner is advisable. It is possible that the woman is being repeatedly infected by her partner, without the partner showing any signs of an infection.
Vaginal fungus infection during pregnancy
A fungal infection in the genital area is mostly accompanied by an unbearable itch, burning and a crumbly white discharge. There is no noticeable odour. There may also be problems when passing urine and in sexual intercourse. The genital region is very red and swollen. A fungal infection often occurs during pregnancy. It appears that the hormonal changes favour mycosis by fostering the growth of yeast fungus. There are various contributing factors during pregnancy, such as a raised oestrogen level, an increase in the pH level and the immune system. In 85% of cases, the pathogen is Candida albicans. This yeast is seen in around 30% of women during the last trimester of a pregnancy.
Fungal infections are even treated in the last trimester of a pregnancy, as there is a danger that the infection could be passed on to a newborn, presenting as oral thrush or nappy rash.
Significance and treatment during pregnancy
Fungal infections occur more frequently during pregnancy; as a rule, they are not detrimental to the pregnancy. They can, however, foster the development of other infections. The illness itself is not believed to be harmful to the unborn child. Treatment is nevertheless advisable both at the beginning and throughout the pregnancy, as a fungal infection can also encourage bacterial colonisation. As well as alleviating unpleasant symptoms such as itching, burning, redness and swelling, it is essential to avoid other infections, for the benefit of both mother and child.
A few weeks before the birth, many doctors check to see if there is a fungal infection, even if no symptoms have yet been experienced. Many physicians recommend this preventive measure, as infection is possible during birth and could lead to oral thrush and irritant diaper dermatitis (nappy rash) in the infant. If a fungal infection is identified, there is still sufficient time for effective and lasting treatment.
Clotrimazole, a broad-spectrum anti-fungal agent, is the treatment of choice for vaginal mycosis during pregnancy. According to Embryotox, an independent portal for pharmaceutical safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding, there is a wide scope of experience with this treatment, and it is possible at all stages of pregnancy. Furthermore, treatment of fungal infections has been proven to reduce the rate of premature delivery.
Effectively defensive vaginal flora is of great importance during pregnancy. You can support your immune defences with protective lactic acid bacteria contained in Vagiflor® vaginal suppositories. Studies have confirmed that women with a high number of protective lactobacilli in their vaginal secretion are less likely to suffer from fungal infections and from imbalances such as bacterial vaginosis.
When is stabilisation of the vaginal environment a good idea?
Yeast infections often arise after a course of antibiotics. This is probably because the antibiotics also reduce the number of protective lactobacilli in the vaginal flora, making the genital area more susceptible to illness. Well-established antimycotics such as Vagiflor® mykomed 200 mg vaginal tablets are available for the reliable acute treatment of fungal infections.
In order to regenerate the vaginal mucosa and restore the natural vaginal flora, the application of protective lactobacilli is advisable. Frequently recurring infections, including chronic bladder infections, can indicate an imbalance in the natural vaginal flora and a weakening of the body’s defences. Vagiflor® lactobacilli support the body’s own protective mechanisms to make you more resistant against renewed infections.
Simple measures to effectively prevent yeast infections
We have compiled some valuable tips to help you protect yourself from the troublesome symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection:
A quick treatment for the unpleasant symptoms of a yeast infection.
Lactic acid bacteria (lactobacilli) are essential for the health of the female genital area, as they determine the acidity of vaginal flora. The acidic environment of the vagina prevents germs from becoming established there.
A child is growing and mum’s immune system now has to work for two. A healthy and balanced vaginal flora reduces the risk of infection for you and your child.
The healthy vagina is certainly not germ-free, but it has a natural protective function. A healthy balance depends on an acidic environment in which harmful yeasts and bacteria cannot survive.