A yeast infection is one of the most common gynaecological issues that women visit their doctors for — research shows that three out of four women will experience it at least once in their lifetime. It therefore comes as no surprise that quite a bit floats around about the genital fungal infection that is not necessarily true.
Acknowledging that this pesky problem has caused women a lot of confusion, obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Robyn Khemlani has debunked some of the common myths associated with the condition.
Myth: You can only get a yeast infection if you are sexually active
Fact: “New sexual activity can result in vaginal irritation which many people mistake for a yeast infection, but in actuality, intercourse won’t lead to a yeast infection,” Dr Khemlani told All Woman. She said that vaginal yeast infections are not usually spread by having sex. However, if you have a yeast infection you should avoid sexual activity until the infection is gone.
Myth: A yeast infection is a sexually transmitted disease
Fact: “A yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted disease. Yeast infections are not usually spread through sexual intercourse; however, having intercourse can further irritate yeast infection symptoms,” Dr Khemlani reasoned. Yeast infections can be caused by a variety of factors like birth control, antibiotics or even your period.
Myth: Yeast infections are unique to girls and women
Fact: “This is a myth because men can get yeast infections, too,” Dr Khemlani said. She explained that yeast infections in men are also common because the fungus that causes yeast infections (candida) is normally present on the skin, especially moist skin.
Myth: Garlic cures yeast infections
Fact: “This one is an old wives’ tale that you can mince for good,” Dr Khemlani advised.
She explained that while garlic does contain allicin, and lab results may have shown it to have antifungal (ie anti-yeast) properties, there is no evidence to support garlic as a cure for this condition.
“Outside of the fact that there have been no tests on animals or humans to prove the effects of garlic, putting a garlic clove inside the vagina may not be the best decision. For garlic to even have any medical effect it has to be crushed or chopped,” Dr Khemlani shared.
She says what putting whole garlic clove inside your vagina is likely to do is expose your inflamed vagina to the possible soil bacteria (like clostridium botulinum) that still could be clinging to the garlic, and in fact could make it worse.
Myth: Using certain feminine products, such as a vaginal douche, can wash yeast infections away
F act: “Doctors recommend that you do not douche,” Dr Khemlani warned.”A healthy vagina has good and harmful bacteria. The balance of bacteria helps maintain an acidic environment. The acidic environment protects the vagina from infections or irritation”
Douching can cause the opposite of what many people want — which is to lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. This, according to Dr Khemlani, will then lead to a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.
“If you already have a vaginal infection, douching can push the bacteria causing the infection to go up into the uterus, Fallopian tubes and ovaries. This can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, a serious health problem,” Dr Khemlani underscores.
Use of these products, she said, can also prevent the growth of the healthy bacteria required to fight off infections.
Warm water is all you need to adequately clean your vulva.
Myth: Yeast infections cannot be cured
Fact: “Typically, a yeast infection is fairly easy to cure. Yeast infections can be treated with various antifungals, either used intra-vaginally or orally,” Dr Khemlani said.
Sometimes severe or recurring yeast infections will just take more time to treat. Keep in touch with your doctor if symptoms of a yeast infection get worse or come back.
Myth: Yeast infections only occur in the vagina
Fact: “Yeast exists in and on everyone’s body, and the right conditions can cause overgrowth and lead to an infection even in children,” Dr Khemlani said.
She explained that yeast infections can grow in any warm and moist area. Yeast flourishes in multiple spots around the body — sometimes even at the same time. Yeast loves the folds of the skin which means you could experience an infection in the vagina, below the breasts, or in the folds between your legs and pelvic area. Also, yeast can turn up on the feet, too. When this happens sweaty socks or shoes could be to the culprit, so keep your feet clean and free of extra moisture to prevent yeast from growing between your toes.
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