There are few things that are more irritating than a vaginal yeast infection. While it is estimated that as many as three out of four women will experience the painful itching and burning sensation at some point during their adult life, it is not a condition that anyone wants to have. As soon as the unpleasant symptoms begin, most women will immediately look for something to ease their discomfort.

The good news is that once you have a better understanding of yeast infection signs, symptoms, treatments there is always something that can be done about the infection. Some women are at a higher risk of this type of infection than others so armed with the right knowledge, many women can take important preventive measures to stop it before the condition appears.

What is a Yeast Infection?

To understand yeast infections better it is a good idea to focus on the word infection. Like most other infections, yeast infections are caused by the growth of fungi that thrive in an environment of warmth and moisture. Understanding this is key to knowing what steps to take to prevent or treat it once it begins.

The fungus that causes the majority of yeast infections, Candida albicans is believed to account for as much as 92% of the known cases. While this yeast is generally found all over the body, infection results when ideal conditions are present to encourage growth. Once the fungus grows to the point of infection, symptoms will begin to appear.

Under normal conditions, the vagina is host to several different types of healthy bacteria that naturally fight off the growth of the fungj but if the right balance is not maintained, a yeast infection is the most likely result. Most of the time, a yeast infection is not a serious problem and can easily be treated with over-the-counter medications or a few home remedies. However, there are several more serious cases that will often require prescription medications to effectively treat. These types of infections are not always what they seem and can be indicative of other underlying medical conditions that may be triggering the break out. Yeast infections have often been identified as warning symptoms for more serious diseases like leukemia, diabetes, and AIDS, for example. For that reason, if a yeast infection persists, it’s very important that you see a doctor as soon as possible to find out if something more serious is happening with your health.

The Symptoms of a Yeast Infection:

Symptoms of yeast infections depend largely on how severe the infection is. The most common symptom will be vaginal itching, and redness in the vaginal area. There may also be a burning sensation at the vaginal opening and a thick, white, and odorless discharge. In more serious cases, sores and fissures could develop or severe swelling in the infected area.

While all of these are common among women, they are not exclusive to yeast infection signs, symptoms, and treatments. A visit to your doctor can help to make absolutely sure that you’re dealing with this condition. Your physician will ask questions about sexual activity and medical history in order to narrow down the problem to a more specific diagnosis.

The Treatments For Yeast Infection Signs and Symptoms:

There are actually two different types of yeast infections to be concerned about. The uncomplicated yeast infection can usually be treated with over-the-counter medication or a one-time application of a  prescription mild antibiotic. Yeast infections are pretty easy to treat with drugs like butoconazole (Gynazole-1), clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin), miconazole (Monistate 3), and terconazole (Terazol 3). These are usually applied directly to the vaginal area and have proven to be very effective treatment options. There are also oral medications like flucanizole (Diflucan) that can be just as effective.

The complicated yeast infection is more severe. Treatment usually involves an extended course of vaginal therapy along with multi-dose medications. Unlike the uncomplicated infection, which usually requires only one or two treatments, the complicated infection requires regular medication taken either orally, topically, or in suppository form for a period of several weeks. Often, these medications must be continued even after the infection has cleared up to lower the risk of the infection returning.

In extreme cases, a doctor may even prescribe a course of topical steroids in an attempt to relieve some of the symptoms while waiting for antifungal treatments to work.

After a successful round of treatments, your doctor may offer an additional course of medications to maintain the healthier condition for a longer period of time. Women who have frequent bouts of yeast infections may have to take weekly maintenance treatments for six months or more until their doctor is satisfied that the condition is not likely to return soon.

Home Remedies:

In milder cases, a doctor’s visit may not even be necessary. There are plenty of over-the-counter medications that you can pick up at your local drug store that can bring relief. In fact, you might even find some successful ways to fight off the fungi with products found right in the kitchen. Consider just a few of these home remedies commonly used for these types of infections.

Boric Acid: studies have shown that using boric acid topically can successfully kill off the fungi in as many as 70% of infections.

Tea Tree Oil: Using a suppository with tea tree oil can help to fight off the spread of the fungi. Some women have found success by dipping a tampon in the oil before use. Caution is warranted, however, when using tea tree oil. It can be an irritant to the skin so it is strongly recommended that combining it with a carrier oil can avoid any additional irritation in the infected area.

Natural Yogurt:

Natural yogurt can work two ways, topically and orally. The good bacteria (probiotics) that are naturally found in yogurt can help to keep the body’s yeast and bacteria in balance.

Of all the conditions one might have to contend with, a yeast infection can be one of the most irritating. But once you understand yeast infection signs, symptoms, treatments, you can be better prepared to deal with the problem. It is often said that “to be forewarned is to be forearmed.” Those who understand the causes and how to prevent it can take the necessary steps to avoid a break out and will know exactly what to do to keep the condition from getting out of hand when it does happen.