Of the places in your body where you do not want things to go awry, the vagina is definitely up there on the list. And yet, vaginal thrush (or yeast infections) is remarkably common: almost three-quarters of women will get a yeast infection at least once in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. The bad news about yeast infections is that they are itchy, uncomfortable, and sometimes, very annoying. But the good news is that they are common, which means most yeast infections can be treated with inexpensive medication bought at any pharmacy.
Here are 4 things you should know about yeast infections, from what causes them in the first place to how you can prevent the yeasty beasties in your vagina from running amok in the future.
Candida-what? When we talk about yeast infections, we’re referring to genital or vulvovaginal candidiasis, an overgrowth of the candida yeast found in all of our bodies — vagina and environs included. Fancy!
We’re all yeasty: It doesn’t sound like yeast should be in vaginas, but it’s actually a pretty normal state of affairs. Yeast cells occur naturally in humans and this is not considered sexually transmitted. Our bodies always have candida on or in them in small amounts — it’s only a problem when the yeast begin growing far more than normal.
But sometimes yeast behaves badly: Problems start when yeast gets out of control, growing when and where it ought not to be growing. In the vagina, this can happen because of hormonal changes, or because of shifts in the normal acidity of the vagina. Genital yeast infections, or vulvovaginal candidiasis, are common overgrowth of yeast cells. The candida multiplies, symptoms start to show up, and you’re miserable.
Some people are more susceptible than others: Some women never get a yeast infection, while others deal with them several times a year. There are some factors that can make them more or less likely. The factors that predispose to more severe genital yeast infection or overgrowth include obesity and diabetes. You can also get a yeast infection on the penis, but that is relatively rare.