Genital/vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC)/Candidal vulvovaginitis
Also known as a vaginal yeast infection, genital candidiasis is a common occurrence when the imbalance of fungus occurs, for example, when the normal levels of acidity in the vagina change or when there is a hormonal imbalance. This causes Candida to multiply which can lead to candidiasis and the symptoms associated with the infection. This kind of Candida infection is caused by Candida albicans.
Women who have a yeast infection will commonly suffer from:
- Genital burning and itching
- Increase in vaginal discharge that, in some cases looks similar to cottage cheese
- Pain or burning when urinating
- Discomfort during sexual intercourse
- Swelling and redness of the vulva and vagina
Men can also get genital candidiasis, this often results in an itchy rash forming on the penis. The symptoms of genital candidiasis are very similar to a variety of other infections of the genitals. It is therefore vital that you make an appointment with your doctor should you have any of the above symptoms.
Yeast infections are not typically spread or caused by sex, however, less than 15% of men may suffer from an itchy and burning rash on the tip of their penis if they have had unprotected intercourse with an infected woman. Yeast infections can also increase one’s risk of contracting an STD (sexually transmitted diseases). Bear in mind, a yeast infection is NOT an STD, although they do share similar characteristics such as burning and vaginal discharge.
Diaper rashes and yeast infections
In infants, regardless of their sex, if they have an untreated diaper rash, they can develop a yeast infection. Mothers who are breastfeeding and taking antibiotics can also increase their child’s risk of developing a yeast infection. If babies are given antibiotics, their risks are also increased. Diaper/ nappy rashes are normally caused by a wet diaper creating a moist environment. When the baby’s skin is irritated from the rash, then an infection can occur.
If the baby’s rash is not going away, then check if their bottom is sensitive and red. If you can see sores with a red border that is slightly raised, then it is best that you speak to your paediatrician and have the baby checked for candidiasis.
Who is at risk of genital candidiasis?
Roughly 75% of adult women around the globe have suffered from a yeast infection at least once in their lives. On some more rare occasions, men are also able to develop genital candidiasis. The condition tends to affect those who have a weakened immune system. There are a number of other factors in which women may have a higher risk of genital candidiasis developing.
The following are risk factors for genital candidiasis for women and in more rare cases, men:
- Having poorly managed diabetes
- Using broad-spectrum antibiotics for a long period of time
- Using corticosteroids
- Wearing tight underwear that is not cotton
- Having a weakened immune system
- Undergoing cancer treatments
- Wearing wet clothing on the genital region for a prolonged period of time
- Having sexual intercourse with an infected person (this is rare)
Female only risk factors include:
- Being pregnant as this changes hormone levels in the body which alters bacterial balance in the vagina
- Taking birth control pills
- Using feminine hygiene sprays or douches
- Scratches occurring in the vagina from tampon insertion or other objects
Can genital candidiasis be prevented?
Wearing underwear that is made of more breathable materials such as cotton and avoiding highly scented soaps and bath products can often aid in reducing one’s risk of a vaginal yeast infection developing.
If a woman suffers from yeast infections that are recurrent, meaning they occur more than three times a year, then there is some evidence that suggests that the use of intravaginal (applied to the inside of the vagina) or oral probiotics may prevent the infection from recurring.
What causes genital candidiasis?
The majority of Candida infections are a result of an imbalance in the individual’s own organisms. The Candida yeasts tend to reside in the GI (gastrointestinal tract), mouth and the vagina without resulting in any symptoms. In the case of an imbalance occurring, the organisms will multiply and grow. Any change to the environment that can disrupt this balance is a culprit in the development of candidiasis.
Diagnosis of genital candidiasis
With the symptoms of genital candidiasis being very similar to the symptoms of a number of different genital infections, the process of diagnosing a patient can often be difficult when only done through a physical examination. Therefore, the diagnosis will normally entail the doctor obtaining a sample of vaginal discharge by means of a pap smear and examining this under a microscope (this is often done in a lab as the doctor will send the sample for testing). This enables the doctor to find out if there is an abnormal amount of the fungus present. This will also enable the doctor to rule out any other causes of the infection.
Treatment and outcome of genital candidiasis
There are a number of different treatment options available in the form of antifungal creams or vaginal suppositories. These are able to range from a one-day form of treatment to a week of treatment. If the infection is mild or moderate it can be treated through the use antifungal medication in a single dose. These types of medications have a high success rate, however, short-course treatment is not always effective in those who have more resistant or recurrent infections.
There are also a few OTC (over-the-counter) options available. Always ensure that you have an accurate diagnosis from a doctor before treating yourself for the infection. Overusing OTC drugs can result in the infection becoming resistant to treatment. OTC options include:
- Miconazole (Micatin, Monistat)
- Clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin, Mycelex)
- Terconazole (Terzol)