If you have ever suffered any sort of infection such as a common cold, strep throat, or the flu at any point in your life, chances are your doctor prescribed you some type of antibiotic (whose name you cannot pronounce) as a first line of defense.
While antibiotics are vital in killing bacteria and fighting infection, they can also inflict collateral damage on beneficial bacteria that live within your body. This may cause a disruption of the body's delicate pH balance and lead to a yeast infection.
It is estimated that a vaginal yeast infection will affect 3 out of 4 women at least once in their lifetime, making it the second most common type of infection in the United States after bacterial infection. Though these figures may sound alarming, the good news is that it’s not typically a serious condition and can be effectively treated or prevented with medication and simple lifestyle changes. Read on to learn more about why antibiotics cause yeast infections and what you can do to treat a yeast infection if you develop one.
Yeast, also known as candida, comes in many forms and can be found in different parts of the body, including the skin, gut, mouth, and vagina. It is usually benign thanks to being kept in check by 'good bacteria’. Good bacteria is part of the normal flora of the body, which serves to maintain a slightly acidic environment. When the balance of beneficial microorganisms is disturbed, yeast can thrive and lead to an infection.
Think of the good bacteria as little warriors that protect the body’s internal environment by making sure that all other organisms are kept in line. Now think of antibiotics as a bomb that explodes and throws off your body’s natural flora; while it may kill the bad bacteria causing the original infection, it also wipes out beneficial flora, giving the candida free rein to multiply and cause an infection.
It is important to note that not everyone who takes antibiotics will develop a yeast infection; however, the longer you take them, the more susceptible you become. Furthermore, if you are already prone to recurring yeast infections, your risk of developing one while taking antibiotics is higher.
Other factors that increase your susceptibility to a yeast infection include:
It is estimated that around 8% of females will experience frequent candida infections, with 5% experiencing them four or more times per year, particularly during their reproductive years.
If you are not familiar with the symptoms of a yeast infection, consider yourself lucky as they can be quite uncomfortable. While every woman will experience them in varying degrees, the most common symptoms include:
Because the above indicators can be related to several issues, it can become difficult for many women to establish whether they are actually suffering from a yeast infection. Often, the same symptoms may be indicative of other ailments such as a urinary tract infection (UTI), bacterial vaginosis, or something else. If you find that treatment for a yeast infection is not working, it is best to see your doctor to determine if another ailment may be causing your symptoms.
Not all antibiotics will necessarily trigger a yeast infection; in fact, it is mainly broad-spectrum ones that will likely cause this effect. Broad-spectrum antibiotics are designed to act against a wide range of disease-causing bacteria, rather than a narrow spectrum.
The most common types of antibiotics include:
You’ll be glad to know that treating a yeast infection is pretty straightforward, but to make sure you get the right treatment, it is important that you speak with your doctor first to confirm the diagnosis.
Once the cause of the infection has been confirmed, there are a number of treatment options available:
Your doctor may prescribe an oral anti-fungal pill called fluconazole (Diflucan) which can effectively treat a yeast infection, or act to prevent one when you need to take antiobiotics.
You can also use over-the-counter medications such as antifungal creams or suppositories that are either applied or inserted inside the vagina.
Home remedies have also proven popular in effectively treating a yeast infection including:
It is important to note that many of the above treatments are not suitable if you are pregnant, diabetic, have a weakened immune system, or experience recurrent yeast infections (four or more a year), as it can cause further complications; therefore, you must always consult your doctor first.