Trying to figure out what exactly what’s going on “down there” can be a scary process for collegiettes. Even common problems can serve as a source for a major freak-out since symptoms can indicate a wide range of problems, some serious, and some that aren’t as big of a deal and often we don’t know which it is.
For example, a typical collegiette may freak when diagnosed with a yeast infection, even though it’s something 75 percent of women will deal with in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Her Campus consulted several expert sources in order to discover the truth about yeast infections and shed some light on one of the most common infections a collegiette will likely deal with, so you can avoid the freak-out.
What exactly is a yeast infection?
Dr. Courtney Barnes, obstetrician and gynecologist at MU Health Care’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital explains, “A yeast infection is also known as vaginal candiasis. It is one of the most common causes of vaginal infections. A yeast infection is caused by a fungus called Candida. In a healthy woman's vagina, small numbers of yeast can be found. When there is an imbalance between the bacteria and yeast in the vagina, however, the yeast can overgrow.”
For those of us that aren’t pre-med majors, a simpler explanation might be more helpful...
Basically, a yeast infection occurs when yeast, a type of fungus that is always found in the vagina, becomes overgrown, irritating lower parts of the reproductive system. In other words, a yeast infection is just that: an infection that can be easily treated without putting a damper on a schedule jam-packed with classes, homework, activities, and more.
What are the symptoms?
You’ve been feeling uncomfortable and itchy “down there” for days. Could it possibly be a yeast infection? “The most common symptoms that women experience are itching and burning on the outside of the vagina, also known as the vulva. Women may notice that the vulva is red and swollen. Some women may have a thick white vaginal discharge,” said Dr. Barnes.
Yeast infections are fairly easy to identify. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health explains, “The most common symptom of a yeast infection is extreme itchiness in and around the vagina.” The office also lists other symptoms to be on the lookout for, such as burning, redness, a rash, or swelling around your vulva or vagina, pain when trying to go to the bathroom or during sex, irregular vaginal discharge, or general soreness.
Why is this happening?
Time for a quick lesson in biology. According to Dr. Barnes, symptoms of a yeast infection occur at the point when yeast overgrows as a result of a bacteria and yeast imbalance. Certain behaviors can make an imbalance more likely to occur. “Some types of antibiotics can increase your chances of getting a yeast infection because they kill the normal bacteria that lives in the vagina. Women who are pregnant, have diabetes, and have a suppressed immune system are also more likely to suffer from yeast infections,” she said.
None of the above apply to you? Planned Parenthood also outlines several common causes of yeast infections. The organization’s website explains that common “side effects” that come with college such as stress, a poor night’s sleep from pulling an all-nighter, too many greasy or sweet late-night snacks, or hormonal changes associated with things like getting your period can also increase the risk of developing a yeast infection.