Vulvovaginal Candidiasis (Vaginal Thrush) is a fungal infection caused by a yeast known as Candida albicans. Candida albicans can be found in various places on our bodies, such as the vagina, mouth, throat, gut, or even the skin. Candida albicans are usually harmless. However, due to an imbalance of the local body environment, Candida albicans can grow and multiply excessively, leading to inflammation and infection. If this occurs in the vagina, this can lead to Candida Vaginitis. This term is used interchangeably with Vulvovaginal Candidiasis.
Vulvovaginal Candidiasis is a common vaginal infection. 75% of women will experience at least once the condition throughout their life. Although Vulvovaginal Candidiasis is not considered as a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), it can be triggered by sex and sometimes passed on to your partner through sex.
What are the Symptoms of Vulvovaginal Candidiasis?
You may experience:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge – typically creamy white, cottage-cheesy like, thick in consistency, odorless
- Vaginal itch or pain
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Painful or uncomfortable urination
Although most cases of Vulvovaginal Candidiasis are relatively mild, some ladies will exhibit profound symptoms such as pain, swelling, and redness, and soreness over the surrounding vagina.
Am I at risk getting Vulvovaginal Candidiasis?
Often, there is no particular reason for Vulvovaginal Candidiasis. Having said that, some women are at a higher risk of getting Vulvovaginal Candidiasis, these include those who are:
- Taking hormonal contraception medication with high estrogen content
- Diabetes that is not well-controlled
- Weaker immune system (due to medication such as steroid, chemotherapy, or medical conditions such as cancer or infection like HIV)
- Recently taking antibiotics
When should I see a Doctor?
Not all vaginal discharge and symptoms are due to Vulvovaginal Candidiasis. You should consult your doctor if you are:
- More than 60 years old or less than 16 years old
- Experiencing abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Abnormal, different symptoms from the previous episode of vaginal candidiasis
- Experiencing more than 4 episode of vaginal candidiasis for the past 1 year
- Have a history of Sexually Transmitted Infection
- Taking medication such as antibiotics
- Weaker in your immune system due to other medical conditions
What do I expect when I see my doctor for Vulvovaginal Candidiasis?
Your doctor will acquire further history regarding your symptoms, concerns, and your sexual history. Your doctor will then offer to examine your genital/vulva region. Depending on individual and associated risk factors, your doctor may treat presumptively without further testing. Sometimes, your doctor may offer a swab test to a tissue sample to confirm or refute the diagnosis of infection.
What are the Treatment Options for Vulvovaginal Candidiasis?
As Vulvovaginal Candidiasis is a fungal infection, treatment revolves around antifungal medication. This can come in the form of pessaries (bullet to insert into the vagina), creams, or even oral tablets.
– Sometimes, your doctor may prescribe antifungal cream to be used together with the pessaries.
Oral Antifungal Tablets
Recurrence of Vulvovaginal Candidiasis
Vulvovaginal Candidiasis can recur. Infrequent recurrence and relapse cases, your doctor may offer you a longer treatment. Speak to your doctor to understand further.
How can I prevent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis?
- Use water and simple emollients rather than soap to wash your vagina. Avoid using a feminine wash, douche, or using deodorants.
- Try showers rather than baths. Avoid bubble baths and scented washes.
- Keep the affected area clean and dry after washing.
- Wear cotton and airy underpants, avoid tight underpants or cloths.
- Abstain from sex until symptoms have resolved.
- Use barrier contraception such as a condom to avoid spreading it to your partner.
- The efficiency of probiotics from yogurt and supplements is uncertain due to insufficient medical-based evidence.