Have you ever suffered from a vaginal yeast infection? If so, you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these itchy, uncomfortable infections afflict 75 percent of women at some point in their lives. But, did you know that diabetes, especially uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes, can be an underlying cause of these infections? For many women, it is the yeast infection that leads to the diagnosis of their disease.

What causes yeast infections?

Vaginal yeast infections, regardless of their underlying source, are caused by an overgrowth of the fungus candida. A normal, healthy vagina always contains bacteria and yeast. It is when the balance between the two is off that yeast can multiply and cause symptoms of a yeast infection.

The cause of this imbalance can differ by the patient. Potential causes can be pregnancy, obesity, antibiotics, and diabetes (which tends to cause a weaker immune system in general). Although yeast infections are not usually caused or spread by sex, a small percentage of men — less than 15 percent — may experience itching, burning, or a red rash from unprotected sex with a woman who has a yeast infection.

How does diabetes contribute to vaginal yeast infections?

But how does diabetes contribute to a vaginal yeast infection? It is thought that the high levels of blood sugar (Above 180-220 mg/dl) present in uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes feeds the yeast in the vagina.

As the levels of yeast begin to overtake the levels of bacteria, the woman’s chances of a yeast infection increase greatly. 

What are the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection?

There are a number of symptoms that can accompany a vaginal yeast infection. The most common is itchiness around the infected area. However, you can also experience pain during urination, pain during sex, and unusual discharge. The exact symptoms experienced, and their severity, depend upon the sufferer.

How are vaginal yeast infections treated?

Fortunately, getting rid of a vaginal yeast infection is relatively simple. It usually takes anywhere from a few days to two weeks to accomplish, with the help of medication. The best approach is to see your doctor to determine if you have a yeast infection, receive treatment, and rule out other, more serious, infections.

How can I prevent a vaginal yeast infections?

 To prevent a yeast infection from occurring or recurring, take these steps:

  • If you have diabetes, make sure your blood sugar is under good control. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels will not only prevent yeast infections but will also keep you healthier in general over the long term.
  • Wear breathable fabrics when it comes to your underwear, and wear looser pants. This will avoid moisture build up that will encourage the growth of yeast.
  • In addition to staying dry through the clothes you wear, make sure you thoroughly dry yourself after bathing and throughout the day. In particular, keep skin folds dry in order to prevent an environment where yeast overgrowth can occur.
  • Try not to use anything scented (i.e. douches, tampons, etc.). These can change the acidity levels in your vagina, leading to a yeast overgrowth and increasing your chances of infection.
  • Finally, eat yogurt or take probiotics. They will encourage the growth of healthy bacteria, helping you to maintain the right balance of yeast and bacteria.

Vaginal yeast infections may be common, but you can do something about them. Take precautions to prevent this uncomfortable condition.