6 ways to stop recurrent yeast infections

Woman applies cream to finger

Yeast infections are common in women. Truth be told, they’re so common that Kathleen Augustine, a certified nurse midwife at Tidelands Health Women’s Center, sees at least one patient every day with the uncomfortable condition.
“I get more referrals related to yeast infections than just about anything else,” she says. “It’s a frustrating thing many women deal with.”
While almost every woman will experience at least one yeast infection in her lifetime, some women get them frequently. Augustine says this could be due to anything from poor hygiene to an underlying medical problem. She recommends the following steps to reduce the likelihood of recurring infections:

1. Practice good hygiene

Something as simple as changing the direction you wipe after urination can reduce your likelihood for infection.
“If you currently wipe back to front, you’re increasing your likelihood of E. coli cross-contamination from the rectum,” says Augustine. “This can increase your risk for yeast infections as well as urinary tract infections.”

2. Take probiotics

This is especially important if you’re taking a course of antibiotics or are on antibiotics frequently. Antibiotics can kill good bacteria as well as the bad, which can lead to an overgrowth of yeast. Taking probiotic supplements, however, can increase levels of good bacteria in the vagina. Augustine also recommends eating sugar-free probiotic yogurt.

3. Don't spend long periods of time in a swimsuit

Yeast infections are more common in the summer months because swimsuits can trap a lot of moisture in and around the vagina. “Yeast likes to grow in hot, moist areas without a lot of air,” she says. “If you spend a lot of time on the beach or at the pool, be sure to dry off properly and change out of your swimsuit as soon as possible.”

4. Avoid douching and scented feminine products

According to Augustine, this is the No. 1 thing you can do to reduce vaginal irritation of any kind.
“Whether it’s a douche, a spray or a scented wipe, I always tell women to avoid them,” she says. “All you need to stay clean is to regularly wash with water and mild soap.”

5. Use an over-the-counter treatment.

Over-the-counter treatments for yeast infections are effective for most women. Some women, however, may be sensitive to the creams and experience worsened symptoms as a result. These women will require an oral medication, which they can get by prescription.

6. See a health care provider.

If an over-the-counter treatment doesn’t eliminate your yeast infection, the culprit may not be a yeast infection at all; it may be bacterial vaginosis, which must be treated with antibiotics. “Sometimes these infections can have a yeast component, too,” says Augustine. “But if the infection didn’t clear or it comes back quickly, it can often be because of a bacterial infection.”
Augustine says you should also see a health care provider if you have frequent yeast infections. The recurrences can be due to an underlying medical problem. Diabetes, uncontrolled blood sugar or an immunosuppressant disease such as HIV are among the variety of potential causes of recurrent yeast infections.

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