Holidays and Vaginal Infections

December 4, 2019   Sexual Health

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The holidays are upon us! In addition to the festive parties, beautiful decorations, and food overload, it’s common to feel a bit out of routine this time of year. The extra lbs. from the delicious desserts are not the only bodily changes you may notice throughout the season—those savory sweets also increase your chance for vaginal infections.

Signs and symptoms

Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina, caused by a change in the normal balance of vaginal bacteria or an infection. Most women will experience at least one type of vaginitis, such as a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis, in their lifetime.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Change in color, odor, or amount of vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal itching or irritation
  • Pain during sex or when urinating
  • Light vaginal bleeding or spotting
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Watch your sugar intake

Our eating habits not only affect our cholesterol levels, heart health, and mental wellbeing but our vaginal health as well. Believe it or not, there is a correlation between vaginal infections and an increase in sugar intake.

Like any food, sugar enters the bloodstream. Consuming an abundance of sugar has the potential to stifle the immune system and affect the body’s ability to fend off bad bacteria, causing an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. No, this doesn’t mean that you have to pass on that extra piece of pie or skip the chocolate fondue station. Just be mindful of how many sugary sweets you’re eating.

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Preventative measures

While eating too much sugar is one of the primary causes of vaginal infections, a variety of other prominent factors can increase your chances of infection.

Lower the risk by keeping the following things in mind:

  • After a sweaty workout or a dip in the pool, try to change your wet clothing as soon as possible.
  • Refrain from using scented feminine products such as tampons, pads, soaps, bubble bath, odor sprays, etc.
  • When menstruating, be sure to change your tampons, pads, and panty liners at least every 4 hours, or as soon as you wake up in the morning. If you have a lighter day, don’t use a “super” or a higher absorbency tampon; consider using a smaller size like “lite” or “regular.”
  • After using the restroom, always wipe front to back.
  • Tight underwear, jeans, or pantyhose can increase heat in the vaginal area and cause irritation.
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Treatment options

Here are indications that it’s time to schedule an appointment with your provider:

  • You’ve never had a vaginal infection and are experiencing a discomfort down there that won’t go away.
  • You have had sex with multiple partners or a new partner (some sexually transmitted infections have mirroring signs and symptoms to vaginal infections).
  • You tried an over-the-counter medication and have yet to feel relief.

Vaginal infections are often treated with an over-the-counter cream or an anti-fungal medication. Once you discuss your current symptoms and receive a quick vaginal health test from your provider, he or she will be able to provide a personalized treatment plan. Typically for yeast infections, a three- to five-day cream regimen or two oral pills will do the trick. If diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis, there is no over-the-counter treatment. The patient would be prescribed a gel, cream, or pill.

Wishing you a safe, healthy, and itch-free holiday!

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Rebecca Banaski, DO, MPH

Vaginal health is maintained by making sure you're in good general health. This includes a healthy diet, regular hygiene, and exercise. Is it as important as the health of the rest of your body. Don't delay in calling your gynecologist if you have any bothersome symptoms.

— Rebecca Banaski, D.O.

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