Fungal vaginal infections are otherwise known as vulvular vaginitis and are caused by Candida albicans which is estimated to cause about 92% of all fungal infections. Candida enters the family of secondary fungi as it grows in two forms, as a fungus and as a mold. Mold is found naturally in every part of the body, especially in wet and warm areas of the body. The vagina maintains a balanced environment between mold and bacteria and many other microorganisms found there. A bacterium called lactobacilli is responsible for producing an acid that stops the extraordinary (above normal) growth of mold. However, this balanced mix of microorganisms in the vagina is sometimes interrupted and the fungus rises above normal levels resulting in itching, vaginal discharge, irritated skin, vulvar rash, pain and burning especially during urination as well as other symptoms that vary from a female to the other. Some factors increase the risk of fungal infections such as: use of antibiotics, high estrogen levels, if you have a weakened immune system, uncontrolled diabetes, pregnancy, sexual activity (although fungal infections are not classified as sexually transmitted infections, if the partner there is infection you can get mold from the partner and this disrupts the vaginal balance of the mold and results in infection later).
How to treat them?
There are various treatments for fungal infections, which depend on the progression and severity of the infection. If you have a simple fungal infection with mild symptoms, your doctor may prescribe antifungal medications that range from 1-7 days. Medicines that treat fungal infections are clotrimazole, butoconazole, miconazole and terconazole. Some of these medications can be purchased without a doctor's prescription, while others can only be obtained with a prescription. Another treatment for uncomplicated fungal infections is a medication that is taken as a single dose orally. Diflucan is one of the most widely used drugs in this way and enters the fluconazole family. This drug can also be used in cases where the infection is more severe and complicated; it is recommended to take 2-3 times with 3 days in between. In cases where the symptoms are more complicated and severe, some other medications are more effective. Your doctor may prescribe a 7-14 day treatment regimen with azole that removes the fungal infection. These medications are in the form of steps, vaginal cream or ointment, or suppository (solid medicine that is placed inside the vagina where it dissolves and fights infections). In addition to these medications, studies are being conducted to confirm the medical use of some alternative medications such as boric acid and sour cream. Boric acid is a prescription-only drug that is placed inside the vagina. The results of several studies have revealed that boric acid can cure some rare forms of Candida, which are resistant to azole drugs.
Yogurt is another alternative that is being tested for the treatment of fungal infections. Women involved in these studies reported that eating or applying yogurt to the vagina relieved the severity of their symptoms. These studies have shown that yogurt may be even more effective than some antifungal medications such as clotrimazole and placebo, but these studies involve a small number of women and the veracity of these studies is under consideration.
Although fungal infections are very common, there are some simple ways that can help prevent them. Diet is very important, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, dairy products and cereals is recommended. Controlling blood sugar levels and avoiding the use of unnecessary antibiotics can prevent fungal infections. Proper dressing also reduces the risk for fungal infections, it is recommended to wear wide pants, skirts and cotton underwear.
Avoid hot baths and wet clothes, change your bathing suit and workout clothes after these activities. During the menstrual cycle change the tampon frequently. Reduce the use of various (aromatic) products during the shower as these affect the vaginal balance and can result in fungal infection.
Vaginal infections appear with very similar symptoms, but are caused by different microorganisms and therefore their treatment varies. It is very easy to identify a vaginal infection for another, so it is very important to consult a doctor before using any medication.