Frequent yeast infections? Why me?

About 5% of women suffer from recurrent yeast infections (more than 4 infections in the last year, or at least 3 infections in the last year that are unrelated to antibiotic use). It can be frustrating and uncomfortable. Why do frequent yeast infections happen? Here are some of the more common reasons.

Have you recently been taking a medication? Frequent antibiotic use can kill healthy bacteria in the vagina and allow yeast to flourish, leading to frequent yeast infections. Medications that suppress the immune system (such as cancer and transplant medications) can make it harder for the body to fight off yeast infections, resulting in more frequent infections.

What do you use for birth control? Spermicides - the gels, foams and creams that are used with diaphragms and condoms - can kill healthy bacteria and make it easier for yeast to grow and spread in the vagina. Birth control pills containing estrogen, especially high-dose pills, can also make it easier for yeast to grow in the vagina.

Is your immune system weakened? A weak immune system makes it harder for the body to fight infections, including yeast infections.

Is sugar a problem for you? If you have diabetes, frequent yeast infections may be a sign that your condition is not well controlled and your blood sugars are too high. It has been suggested that a diet that is too high in sugar might contribute to frequent yeast infections, but medical studies have not been able to prove this.

Are your clothes to blame? Tight-fitting clothes, particularly synthetic materials, can lead to increased moisture and heat in the vaginal area, which can make it easier for yeast to grow. Choosing natural materials like cotton allows the area to remain cooler and drier.

Are you having frequent sex? Frequent sexual activity may also irritate the vaginal area and increase the risk of developing yeast infections. It is not clear whether yeast infections may be sexually transmitted. Approximately half of all women who experience recurrent yeast infections have a sexual partner who is also infected. But so far no studies have shown that treating a woman's sexual partner helps prevent recurrent yeast infections.

Are you using the wrong treatment? Sometimes frequent infections occur because the treatment selected is not effective against the type of yeast causing the infection. Although Candida albicans is the most common type of yeast causing yeast infections, harder-to-treat types of yeast, such as Candida glabrata, can also infect the vagina and are more common with recurrent infections. Resistance, where the yeast changes its genetic makeup so it is harder to treat, is another cause of frequent yeast infections.

Other things that make your infection more likely to come back include forgetting to use the treatment according to directions, missing doses, or stopping before the medication has all been used.

If you are suffering from frequent yeast infections, see your doctor before treating them yourself. Your doctor can help you find out why you are having frequent infections and suggest an effective treatment.

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