Candidiasis

Candidiasis (vaginal mycoses) summary

Vaginal mycoses or candidiasis affect countless women, 75% of women are affected at least once in their lives, with women who have a menstrual cycle being the most affected.
Candidiasis is caused by fungi of the genus Candida, the species Candida albicans is responsible for 80 to 92% of cases, but recent studies show that the number of cases of candidiasis caused by other species (C. glabrata and C. krusei) is increasing .
C. albicans is a fungus found naturally in the gastrointestinal mucosa of human beings and in the genital mucosa of women, the disease occurs when there is an excessive growth of this fungus and some factors can favor this growth, such as: hormonal variations, pregnancy , diabetes , use of medicines (antibiotics , steroids, antineoplastics, birth control pills, etc), stress , excessive hygiene and sexual activity.

The first symptoms are irritation, itching and redness in the vulva and genital area. These symptoms may be followed by local pain, painful urination, discharge (whitish or watery, usually odorless).

The diagnosis must be made through a medical examination, where secretion can be collected to confirm candidiasis and species. Self-diagnosis should not be carried out, they are often wrong, as the symptoms of candidiasis can be confused with bacterial infections, sexually transmitted diseases (trichomoniasis, genital herpes ), allergy, infection with other fungi.

The treatment must be prescribed by the doctor and can be through creams and vaginal pills, the treatment together tends to be more effective. The most used molecules are: clotrimazole , miconazole and nystatin. In more severe cases, oral tablets such as fluconazole may be used. The duration of treatment can vary from 1 day to 14 days, without interfering with effectiveness.

In addition to conventional treatments, there are some medicinal plants that can be used, such as: tea tree , mastic , lemon grass and calendula .

Some tips can help with treatment, such as: relax, as stress can be a trigger; avoid sexual intercourse during vaginal mycosis, to avoid contagion of the partner; apply cold compresses to the region.

Food rich in probiotic yogurts, using neutral soaps, avoiding tight clothes and synthetic fabrics, using condoms during sexual intercourse can help prevent candidiasis.

Definition

Vaginal candidiasis, also known as vaginal mycosis, is a disease caused by fungi, most often Candida albicans, in the intimate region. This generates an inflammation in the vagina.

It is not a disease linked to lack of hygiene, but a disturbance of the natural vaginal flora, in which several factors can be the cause. It is important to note that the vaginal mucosa, which is made up of layers of flattened, tightly bound cells, is densely colonized by microorganisms, such as the gastrointestinal mucosa.

Vaginal mycosis affects many women worldwide, about 75% of women are affected at least once in their lifetime and 45% of women have had 2 or more episodes. They mainly affect women who have menstrual periods, with postmenopausal women (who do not take estrogen) and girls who have not yet had their first period being less affected.

Candida albicans is a fungus that is naturally present in our gastrointestinal mucosa and in the vaginal mucosa of women. Under normal conditions, it does not cause disease, but some factors (see candidiasis causes) can cause the exaggerated growth of this background, generating the symptoms of candidiasis.

Recurrent vaginal candidiasis is characterized by 4 or more episodes within a 1-year period and occurs in 5 to 8% of healthy women.

Most experts do not consider vaginal mycosis to be a sexually transmitted disease (STD), although contamination of the partner during sexual intercourse is possible. Transmission is, however, rare, especially if the person is in good health.

Epidemiology

It is estimated that 5 to 8% of all women suffer from recurrent (recurrent) candidiasis. The origin would come from an immune system unable to develop an immunity against fungal infections.

Causes

In general, vaginal mycoses develop after a variation in the level of microorganisms in the vaginal flora, which may be followed by the development of fungi and, therefore, the appearance of mycoses.

Physiological causes
At the physiological level and in a normal situation, lactic acid bacteria (lactobacillus) transform glucose in the cells of the vaginal mucosa into lactic acid. Then there is a reduction in the vaginal pH. This acidic medium prevents the development of pathogenic germs. In a normal situation (acidic vaginal pH), the lactobacillus bacteria develop in equilibrium with the yeasts. But in some situations, this balance is broken, a decrease in lactic acid and an increase in pH ensues leading to increased development of pathogenic yeasts like Candida albicans by a very significant amount. If yeasts become too numerous, the vaginal mucosa reacts by the appearance of inflammatory signs (symptoms).

Knowing that vaginal mycoses are caused by fungi (generally by Candida albicans), some factors may favor the excessive development of this fungus. It is necessary to know that Candida albicans is always present in the vaginal area, but in small quantities.
Here are some causes or risk factors for vaginal mycoses:

– hormonal changes (menstruation)

– pregnancy: during the period of pregnancy there is a hormonal variation of estrogen, altering the vaginal environment and making it more favorable for the development of candida.

– diabetes (increased tissue glucose creates more favorable conditions for the development of candidiasis)

– use of certain medications ( antibiotics and medications that weaken the immune system). Antibiotics can change the vaginal pH and increase the number of Candida albicans .

– stress

– weakened immune system (HIV, medications, post organ transplant)

– use of birth control pills that contain estrogen or hormone replacement

– excessive hygiene in the private parts

– clothes that are too tight or made of synthetic materials

– age (older women who still have a menstrual cycle are more likely to develop vaginal mycosis).

– sexual activity, candidiasis is not a sexually transmitted disease, although it occurs in sexually non-active women, it is more common in sexually active women.

– unbalanced diet

Candidiasis is most often caused by Candida (80 to 92% of cases), but infection can also be caused by rarer species such as Candida glabrata and Candidade krusei, usually associated with recurrent or persistent candidiasis.

Although it is not a sexually transmitted disease, transmission through sexual intercourse is possible.

Symptoms

Symptoms can vary in intensity from one case to another, but they are usually always the same and women who have already suffered from this infection easily recognize the symptoms.

During vaginal mycosis (candidiasis), itching and redness appear at first. Then, burning in the vagina, pain and white (or even yellowish) secretions, often odorless, are often present. Note that during bacterial infections the secretions at the vaginal level often have a strong unpleasant fishy odor. Some redness in Organs genitals (vulva) and a soreness in the vagina can also occur during vaginal mycoses.

Attention, itching, redness and pain in the vagina are not necessarily signs of candidiasis, they can also be symptoms of bacterial infections, sexually transmitted diseases (trichomoniasis, genital herpes ), allergies , infection by other fungi… exact diagnosis and suggest the best treatment for your illness or infection.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of candidiasis is made through medical examination and secretion collection for direct examination under microscope and culture. Do not start treatment before you have been examined, as using non-prescription treatments is a waste of money, time and can make symptoms worse.

Self-diagnosis is often wrong, due to symptoms similar to other diseases such as bacterial infections, sexually transmitted diseases (trichomoniasis, genital herpes ), allergies , infection by other fungi…

self-diagnosis tests

There are more and more self-diagnosis tests on the market for vaginal mycoses. Some tests are particularly capable of identifying the presence of Candida albicans and Gardnerella vaginalis . Consult your pharmacy.

Treatments

The treatment of candidiasis can be through creams, vaginal pills (introduced inside the vagina), or oral pills. Creams, vaginal pills should be used preferably at bedtime. There is no difference in effectiveness between treatments of 1 day or up to 14 days.

Medicines called imidazole are usually used: in particular clotrimazole , used in the form of a cream, vaginal pills (introduced into the vagina).

Other molecules can be used, such as miconazole or oticonazole

In some cases, the doctor may also prescribe an oral (pill) and single-dose treatment based on fluconazole. In more complicated cases, there may be a need for a second dose 72 hours (3 days) after the first dose.

In cases of non-albicans resistant candida, an alternative is to use boric acid.

Do not use medication without a medical prescription. Self-medication is a waste of money and time and can make symptoms worse.

In general, symptoms of vaginal candidiasis disappear within a few days after medication (antifungal).

Medicinal plants

There are medicinal plants that allow to obtain good results in the treatment of vaginal candidiasis.

– tea tree , topical use (do not ingest!)

– calendula

– mastic

– lemongrass , in the form of essential oil with or without conventional treatments.

– According to the Mayo Clinic (recognized North American clinic), the use of echinacea -based supplements  associated with an antifungal cream would have a preventive effect on chronic vaginal mycoses.

– Lavender , usually in the form of essential oil. For example, apply a few drops of lavender inside your underwear to reduce itching.

natural remedy

– yogurt cap

Prevention

– You can adopt a daily diet rich in yogurt, especially yogurt rich in Lactobacillus acidophilus, this food has a scientifically proven preventive effect on vaginal mycoses. Instead, you can also take probiotic powder or capsule.

– Use special soap for intimate parts, give preference to products with a neutral pH, but do not use it every day. Clean the external genital area (vulva) with clean water or a pH-neutral cleansing lotion. Avoid using perfumed, alkaline soaps or intimate sprays.

– Do not use intimate showers too often, the vagina does not need more care than the rest of the body and intimate showers promote an imbalance of the vaginal flora. Excessive hygiene can even weaken the vaginal flora. A daily intimate bath with lactic acid can be helpful.

– Avoid wearing clothes that also interfere, that are made of synthetic material or that do not allow the skin to breathe enough. It is also advisable to wear underwear. It’s better to sleep without panties. Choose cotton underwear. This natural fiber lets it “breathe” and prevents moisture in the area.

– Avoid the use of tampons, especially during menstruation and at night, in these cases prefer external pads.

– Wash clothes at 60°C to kill micro-organisms (fungi, for example).

– As for the prevention of cystitis , it is always advisable to dry and clean the intimate area from front to back. This is from the vulva to the anus, not vice versa, to prevent the spread of bacteria from the anus to the vulva.

– Using a condom during intercourse can have a preventive effect on yeast infections. Using condoms especially among women who often suffer from this problem. The use of condoms is also important to avoid contaminating the partner and, therefore, being re-infected (the “ping-pong” risk effect).

– Quickly change clothes, especially bathing suits, when they are wet, as this humid environment favors the development of mycoses.

– Avoid taking a very hot shower. Instead, take a cool shower that soothes itchiness.

Tips

– Relax, as stress can be a triggering factor. Rest allows you to strengthen your immune system and therefore avoid contamination.

– Avoid having sex when you have vaginal candidiasis (at least during the acute phase), this allows the vaginal mucosa to be completely healed and prevents contamination of your spouse.

– To appease the discomfort caused by vaginal mycoses and while waiting for the effect of the medication, it is possible to apply a cold compress to the region of the vaginal lips.

– A recent study from Egypt, demonstrated that the use of a mixture of honey and yogurt, topically in the vagina, can help the treatment of candidiasis, especially in cases of pregnancy. Learn how to prepare this homemade honey yogurt recipe .

– Don’t scratch yourself. Take a cool shower which helps relieve itchiness.

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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