Vagina Thrush is one of the infections that affect the vagina and its surrounding areas when due to the imbalance of the micro flora that lives in the vagina.
Vaginal thrush is a yeast infection that occurs when the number of yeasts in the vagina multiply unchecked and cause them to grow to the outside environment of the vagina. It mostly occurs in women who are in their sexually-active ages, that is normally between ages 16 and 60, but it can also occur in women outside this age bracket.
In this article, we will explain what vaginal thrush is, its symptoms, and how to treat them. We will also look at the home treatments for vaginal thrush as well as self-care tips for people, especially pregnant women that have vaginal thrush.
The vagina is home to a host of microorganisms; bacteria and fungi. They help to improve the health in the vagina environment by keeping each other in check to perform their functions. The bacteria, lactobacillus helps to keep the fungi, Candida albicans within its safe growth rate in the vagina.
Once candida, the causative agent for most cases of vaginal thrush, outgrows its balance with the other microorganisms in the vagina, it begins to be a problem. This imbalance might be due to many reasons as you will see later but its effect can be mild or intense.
Vaginal thrush irritation of the vagina and vulva, discharge from the vagina, and intense itching. Even though it can be transferred from one sexual partner to the other, it is not considered an STI.
Causes of Vaginal Thrush
Vaginal thrush is caused by the overgrowth of the fungi, Candida albicans. It is one of the many microbes present in the vagina but begin to pose a problem to its host when it multiplies more than the other microorganisms such as the bacteria, lactobacillus.
The fungi may grow into the inner parts of the vagina and cause the exhibition of vaginal thrush symptoms or it may be visible as an outgrowth on the vagina.
Risk Factors of Vaginal Thrush
Since the causative agent of vaginal thrush is known, it means its treatment should be straightforward. However, there are some factors that can increase one’s risk of developing or contacting this infection.
Pregnant women are liable to have an increased growth of the fungus Candida due to the increased level of the reproductive hormone, estrogen and progesterone. For some unexplained reasons, C. albicans increases in population in the vagina due to the increase of these reproductive hormones either during pregnancy or the luteal stage of a woman’s monthly cycle.
There is also a risk of having vaginal thrush if you’re on a hormonal medication that helps you to elevate the level of reproductive hormones in your body as in the treatment of PCOS.
The multiplication of C. albicans depends on the suitability of the environment (made possible by higher levels of estrogen and progesterone) and the decline in the number of the bacteria lactobacillus.
The lesser the population of lactobacillus in the vagina, the more the number of candida and the more it multiplies. Therefore, you are at a great risk of having vaginal thrush when you are on an antibiotic medication as it works to reduce the population of bacteria in your body.
Higher sugar levels give yeast a better growing environment. This is why women leaving with diabetes are at a high risk of developing vaginal thrush.
For pregnant women, apart from the enabling environment created by the reproductive hormones, gestational diabetes could also aid in the growth of Candida.
Weakened immune System
A weakened immune system gives room for the growth of many microorganisms that should be kept in check. One of such is yeast. A deficiency in certain nutrients such as vitamin C may lead to weakened immune system as can treatment regimen of cancers through chemotherapy.
Symptoms of vaginal Thrush
The signs that accompany vaginal thrush isn’t limited to the vagina. It can be seen on the vulva as well, leading to the name vulvovaginal candidiasis. The symptoms include:
- Itchy vulva and vagina
- Pain (usually a burning feel) while urinating or having sex
- Rash on the vagina
- White discharge from the vagina
- Red and swollen vulva
Treatment of Vaginal Thrush
The treatment of vaginal thrush is quite easy to accomplish on a good day. However, complications can arise when the affected person is pregnant, undergoing other types of treatment, or is diabetic. It is, therefore, important that you visit your doctor for treatment.
Treatment options include using oral medications, anti-thrush pessary and anti-thrush cream.
Oral medication is advisable for people who are not pregnant. However, they can use anti-thrush pessary as well, depending on the best course of treatment the doctor sees.
Pregnant women will be treated with anti-thrush pessary as oral medication may affect their babies. Also, the use of these pessary medications must be with care as they will be inserted through the vagina. You will be better off inserting it by hand instead of the applicator, to avoid injuries to the cervix.
The pessary medication will be used for between 3 – 7 days.
If symptoms have spread to the vulva, anti-thrush creams may be prescribed too.
Home Treatment and Self-Care Tips for Vaginal Thrush
Vaginal thrush can be treated at home if there are no complications. Many women have used some self-care tips you will find here as treatment against vaginal thrush and have found them to be effective. Follow them and you might not have to visit your doctor as they will clear your thrush in days and at most a week.
Use Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a proven anti-fungal and anti-bacterial chemical. It is naturally produced by the bacteria lactobacillus that lives in the vagina. It is responsible for the population control of the fungi, C. albicans.
To use hydrogen peroxide, mix equal proportions of the chemical with water and bathe with it. You can also spray your genitals with the mixture after peeing.
Do not douche with the chemical and avoid prolonged use of the mixture.
Coconut Oil is effective
Coconut oil is known to improve the health of the skin when used consistently. However, it is less common knowledge that coconut oil has anti-fungal properties as it has other health benefits.
Purchase pure coconut oil and rub it on the affected area. It is gentle on the skin and will not irritate the already irritated vulva.
Consume more vitamin C
One of the reasons vaginal thrush develops is the weakened state of the immune system, which may be caused due to the inadequacy in the consumption of vitamin C. to effectively combat vaginal thrush, increase your daily vitamin C consumption either through your diet or supplement.
It is best that you combine more vitamin C consumption with another home treatment that directly tackles the fungus.
Consider Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a strong antimicrobial agent that combats viruses, bacteria, and fungi. It is known the be a major ingredient in some vaginal suppositories due to its effectiveness.
You can acquire tea tree oil from online stores. However, be careful with its use as it can be too strong for people with sensitive skin. To use it, use a carrier oil such as coconut oil or jojoba oil. Apply to the affected area and wait for the symptoms to clear off.
Do not use the oil orally and stop its usage if you notice any discomfort.
You can improve the population of bacteria in your body by eating foods that help with that. Greek yoghurt is a n excellent example of a probiotic that can help introduce the rapid growth of bacteria in your body.
Since the increased population of bacteria automatically means the fungus colony is put in check, it is advisable you eat more probiotic foods.
For pregnant women, prenatal vitamins with probiotics are available to help you improve your micro flora.
Bath with Apple Cider Vinegar
An apple cider vinegar bath is one of the most popular remedies to yeast infection.
All you need to do, as supported by research is to add a half cup of apple cider vinegar to your bath. Soak in the mixture for about twenty minutes. The mixture will rid your body of microorganisms that are present where they shouldn’t be.
Avoid using apple cider vinegar without dilution and do not douche with it. Also, note that the bath water should be lukewarm for more effectiveness.
Self-care tips for Vaginal Thrush
- Avoid douching, it removes a number of microorganisms from your vagina, causing an imbalance that might lead to vaginal thrush or other vaginal infection.
- Limit, if possible, stop wearing tight-fitting trousers, leggings, and pantyhose.
- Do not leave wet clothes on for long. After swimming or engaging in workout, get out of those clothes as soon as possible.
- Indiscriminate use of antibiotics should stop.
- Staying for protracted periods in hot tubs and baths.
Vaginal thrush is a common infection that affects women who have started their menstruation. It is characterized by irritation, redness and swelling of the vulva and vagina. Whitish discharge from the vagina is another serious symptom. However, it can be treated by using home remedies such as coconut oil and apple cider vinegar.
Medical treatment should be done by a doctor and for pregnant women, ensure that you consult your doctor before the use of any medication.
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Ayomide, is a Health professional, who has worked in most healthcare unit and has a background in Nursing.