The Health Advisory Clinic > News > Must I always see a doctor for yeast infections?

Must I always see a doctor for yeast infections?

Yeast infections are very common and about 75% of women will get at least one yeast infection at some point in their lives. In fact, it’s normal to have yeast present in the vagina from time to time; yeast is present in women about 20% of the time and usually nothing to be worried about. Some women may produce symptoms, others may not. The most common symptoms are:

  • Vaginal itching
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Change in the colour of vaginal discharge (usually thick and white and resembles cottage cheese)
  • Pain or burning sensation during urination
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal spotting

Because yeast infection isn’t a life threatening condition and can be easily treated with over-the-counter medication, there is no need to see a doctor every time.

When to see a doctor for yeast infections

If you’ve been diagnosed with a yeast infection by a doctor in the past and are experiencing the same symptoms again, then generally there is no need to see a doctor. You can self-medicate with anti fungal creams. However, if you’ve had sex recently with a new partner and are experiencing symptoms typical of a yeast infection —itching, burning, unusual vaginal discharge—, then it might be in your best interest to see a doctor as they could be signs of a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Apart from that, you should also see a doctor if:

You are experiencing your first yeast infection
This is to ensure you don’t have a more serious problem that requires different treatment, such as a urinary tract infection or STI. Most women who’ve never had a yeast infection diagnose themselves right only about 11% of the time. So it’s important to see a doctor who can do a slide or swab test to get a proper diagnosis.

You suspect you’re pregnant or are pregnant
Any medication, including over-the-counter vaginal creams used for yeast infections, need to be approved by a doctor during pregnancy.

You get recurring yeast infections
If you get four or more yeast infections in a year, you might have recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis. Treatment for this condition will require taking an antifungal medication for 6 months. In addition, frequent yeast infections may be a sign of underlying medical conditions like diabetes.

Your symptoms do not go away after treatment
Again, this might be a sign of another medical condition. If you’re not getting better, your symptoms may be caused by another condition like bladder infections, chlamydia, or in some cases, it may be a skin issue like eczema or contact dermatitis. 

If you find that your symptoms are different from past yeast infections or are just concerned, then by all means see a doctor for peace of mind.

Are there certain groups of people more prone to developing yeast infections?

Yes, there are certain groups of people who have a higher risk of developing a yeast infection. They include women on or with: 

Antibiotics

Antibiotics help to kill bacteria, but they also kill healthy bacteria found in the vagina leading to accumulation of yeast.

High oestrogen levels

Women with higher oestrogen levels i.e. pregnant women and women on hormone therapy are more prone to developing yeast infections.

Diabetes

Diabetes that isn’t well controlled can cause sugar levels to spike, leading to an overgrowth of yeast in the vaginal area. If you have diabetes, maintaining your blood sugar levels can help reduce the chances of infection.

Poor immune system

An immune system flare up can cause yeast infections. Women with weakened immune systems —especially those with HIV infection or on corticosteroid therapy— are more likely to develop yeast infections.

What can I do to prevent yeast infections?

As a rule of thumb, it would be better to wear underwear with a cotton crotch that doesn’t fit too tightly. Always wash your panties with warm water and avoid scented feminine products — this includes pads, tampons and even bubble baths. It would help to avoid hot tubs too.

Always make sure not to stay in wet clothes like swimsuit and workout attire for too long as a moist environment allows bacteria to thrive. After you use the bathroom, ensure to always pat below dry. Avoid douching as this removes normal bacteria from the vagina. This bacteria is necessary to protect you from infection.

Try not to go on antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.

References

  1. Chatzivasileiou, P., & Vyzantiadis, T. A. (2019). Vaginal yeast colonisation: From a potential harmless condition to clinical implications and management approaches-A literature review. Mycoses, 62(8), 638–650. https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.12920
  2. Sobel J. D. (2016). Recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 214(1), 15–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2015.06.067