Dr. Aparna Patil, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Kinder Women’s Hospital and Fertility Center, Bengaluru
Diabetes is a common chronic disorder that is estimated to affect up to 642 million people worldwide making its prevalence 10.4% by 2040. Diabetes Mellitus is known to pose different types of health problems in women, including yeast infections. An overgrowth of yeast in the warm and moist places in the body, especially vagina can be caused due to Diabetes or high or uncontrolled blood glucose levels. It is often recurring and harmless but may remain unnoticed and undiagnosed, which may turn severe if left untreated.
Vaginal Yeast Infection: What is it?
Defined as an overgrowth of fungus in the body, a vaginal yeast infection is not rare amongst women and are characterized by symptoms such as itchiness, thick vaginal discharge and irritation. The other noticeable symptoms include soreness or redness in and around the vagina, painful sexual intercourse and burning feel during urination. This type of infection can also occur when the immune system is weak or there are changes in the vagina.
However, since yeast typically survives on sugar, women with high blood sugar levels are found to be more susceptible to such kind of fungal infection since it disrupts the vagina’s balance of bacteria and yeast. The body, in order to release the excess sugar, uses bodily fluids including vaginal secretions wherein yeast may grow and continue to multiply.
Few other factors that may contribute to development of vaginal yeast infection are pregnancies, contraceptives, antibiotics, unsafe sexual activities, wearing wet or too tight undergarments or hormonal changes. In certain cases, even a class of diabetes medications known as Sodium Glucose Co-transporter 2 (SGLT-2) inhibitors can cause yeast infection as they encourage the body to pass excess sugar using the urinary tract.
Vaginal yeast infection can be self-diagnosed when anyone starts experiencing the usual symptoms. It may, at times, appear similar to the symptoms of sexually transmitted disease (STIs) or eczema too. It may go away with the onset of menstrual cycle. However, it is ideal to consult a doctor and examine the vaginal discharge to check the presence of yeast in the laboratory and devise the right treatment plan to cure the same.
Treatment of Vaginal Yeast Infections
Depending on the severity and symptoms, this type of yeast infection can be treated with anti-fungal medications or cream which can applied for not more than seven days. Certain oral medications may also be prescribed keeping in mind the blood glucose levels.
How can you prevent Yeast Infections?
If you are diabetic, you may be at an increased risk of yeast infection, which can be prevented by:
· Keeping a check on the blood sugar levels
· Consuming a healthy diet with lower intake of carbohydrates and higher intake of probiotics like curd
Taking prescribed diabetes medication as per instructions
Wearing comfortable underwear, preferably cotton
Maintaining vaginal hygiene – keeping the area clean and dry
Changing sanitary pads or tampons at regular intervals
Avoiding applying vaginal perfumes that may irritate the area
Vaginal yeast infections are common and stay up to 14 days, depending on the severity and the treatment methods opted for. With necessary precautions, the frequency in the occurrence of such infections can be reduced, leading to an improved quality of life.