Yeast is a naturally occurring fungus present in at least 20% of healthy women. An overgrowth of yeast in the vagina, also called a yeast infection, causes many women to experience painful itching and irritation, and the desire to quell these symptoms immediately.
Women commonly turn to topical anti fungal creams to kill the yeast and soothe their irritation. Doctors warn against this quick self-diagnosis and treatment; not only may you make a mis-diagnosis, if you use anti fungal creams to treat your yeast infection, it may cause an even bigger problem for you down the road as the yeast may become drug resistant.
Know Thy Enemy
Yeast infections commonly consist of the yeast Candida albicans, but you should understand that there are more than two hundred different strains of Candida, which are collectively referred to as non-albicans.
Anti-fungal creams may eliminate the Candida albicans but not the non-albicans, which allows them to grow and cause infection. Two common species of non-albicans are Candida glabrata and Candida tropicalis.
These non-albicans are harder to treat and may require longer treatment, or they may not respond to treatment at all. This is why it is important to see a doctor who will be able to identify the yeast correctly under a microscope.
In the same way that super bacteria can develop after the misuse or overuse of antibiotics, super yeast grows as the use of anti fungals kills the Candida Albicans but not the stronger non-albicans. Candida glabrata infections have been reportedly on the rise as this type of yeast responds poorly to anti fungal treatment. Candida glabrata is associated with diabetes, bacterial vaginosis, and may also have a connection to douching.
A Vicious Circle
At the slightest itch or discharge women are quick to diagnose a yeast infection, and then purchase an anti fungal cream that they are told will solve their vaginal crisis. They apply this anti fungal cream which will certainly kill the candida albicans, but will not kill stronger candida strains. This in turn promotes the overgrowth of the stronger candida, and the next time there is a real yeast infection, the anti fungal creams will fall short and a prescription for something much stronger will be necessary. It is estimated that 25-30% of yeast infections are resistant to over the counter anti fungal creams.
Are Anti fungal Creams Really the Answer?
It is important for women to be educated about yeast infections. Because they share symptoms with many other types of infections, it is not always easy to identify your vaginal problem correctly as a yeast infection. Therefore, it is wise to see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor will be able to tell you if an anti fungal cream is right for you, but you should also know that there are several home treatment options available.
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