Vulvovaginal Candidiasis (VVC) is a fungal infection of the vagina. Also called Candida Albicans, it occurs when there is an overgrowth of the fungus called Candida. This fungus normally dwells in the body, but in small amounts. The overgrowth takes place when there is an imbalance; either a hormonal imbalance or changes in the acidity of the vagina. When the Candida multiplies, Candidiasis takes place.
VVC is not usually considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD) because the Candida species are regularly found in the vagina. It is the vaginal discharge that changes as a result of the overgrowth, and many times before VVC is apparent, it is preceded by a vaginal yeast infection. In a yeast infection, a white curd-like discharge is evident as well as itching in and around the vagina. Although VVC is not considered an STD, Trichomoniasis can lead to Vulvovaginal Candidiasis. Trichomoniasis is an STD that afflicts approximately 120 million women worldwide.
Symptoms of Vulvovaginal Candidiasis
Women can have Vulvovaginal Candidiasis and not show any symptoms. However, women who do experience symptoms can include the following:
- Vaginal itching
- Soreness in and around the vagina
- A burning sensation or discomfort in and around the vagina
- Thick cheese-like vaginal discharge (looks like cottage cheese)
- Reddish rash that occurs in and around the vulva
- Swelling of the vulva
- Fishy smelling vaginal discharge
- Strong fishy smell after intercourse
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Yellowish or green frothy discharge
Symptoms can persist for days, weeks, or even months. Sometimes, the symptoms are aggravated by sexual intercourse, and the vaginal odor usually becomes stronger after intercourse.
Diagnosing Vulvovaginal Candidiasis
Diagnosis for Vulvovaginal Candidiasis can be conducted by two main methods. The first method is microscopically viewing the vaginal discharge to determine the existence of Vulvovaginal Candidiasis. This method can be done in the doctor’s office with results provided immediately. The second method is a laboratory test that can take two to three days to confirm. In both tests, a swab is used to acquire a small sample of vaginal discharge to test.
Some tests can be negative even if Candida Albicans is present. Therefore, it is necessary to get comprehensive testing if you suspect an infection.
Treatment for Vulvovaginal Candidiasis
Vulvovaginal Candidiasis can be treated by prescription medication or over-the-counter medication. Medicated creams, gels and vaginal suppositories (pills inserted into the vagina) are all ways to treat VVC.
Some of the medications that are prescribed or can be bought over-the-counter for VVC are: Diflucan, Femstat, Gyne-Lotrimin, Mycelex, Monistat and Vagistat. Some treatments have to be administered only one to three times. However, women who have frequent bouts with VVC can be prescribed a different medication with a long-term treatment course.
There are some alternative treatments that seem successful for some women. Since, VVC is to do with an imbalance of the pH of the vagina, rebalancing can be assisted by taking Lactobacillus acidophilus or L. bifidus. Garlic is also reported to be helpful. In addition, vitamins and nutrition assessment has proven helpful. Taking antioxidant vitamins such as A, C, E, and B complex, and D are recommended.
If you have recurring VVC, the following things can help any symptoms from reappearing:
- Avoid tight clothing or underwear
- Soaking in a salt, rather than soap, bath
- Application of a hydrocortisone cream to reduce itching
- Treating the area with an antifungal cream before each menstrual period
- Oral medication can be taken once a month for preventative measures
- 600mg of boric acid used as a night suppository can help reduce the presence of yeast
What Happens if Vulvovaginal Candidiasis Goes Untreated?
Vulvovaginal Candidiasis can lead to two major complications if untreated. In addition to harboring irritating symptoms, VVC can cause vaginitis and penile candidiasis. Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina. More uncommon is penile candidiasis, which is basically a male yeast infection that is transferred from a female partner.
Preventing Vulvovaginal Candidiasis
Vulvovaginal Candidiasis cannot really be prevented. There are, however, several measures that can be monitored to make sure the chances of getting VVC are reduced. One of those measures includes watching your dietary and nutritional intake. Foods to avoid are: cheese, alcohol, chocolate, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, fruits, and any fermented foods.
Wearing loose fitting clothes, pantyhose and/or underwear can help prevent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis. This helps keep the vagina cool and dry.
Practicing genital hygiene is important, as well as avoiding douching as this can upset the normal pH balance of the vagina.
VVC occurs because of an imbalance of the vaginal flora. There are many things that can cause this, from stress to taking antibiotics for another ailment; therefore most women are afflicted with VVC at least once in their life. The best way to prevent becoming distressed from the infection is to get regular check-ups, visit your doctor if you are suspicious of an infection, and always complete any treatment course for any STD or vaginal ailment that you are prescribed.
Who Is at Risk for Contracting Vulvovaginal Candidiasis?
- Having sexual intercourse at a young age
- Having more than 2 sexual partners
- Not using protection during sexual intercourse
- Women who use perfumed hygienic sprays
- Women who have frequent sexual intercourse
- Women with a history of STDs
- Women who are diabetic
- Women taking oral contraception
- Pregnant women
- Women who have had a prior pregnancy
- Women under an immense amount of stress
- Iron deficiency
- Women taking antibiotics
- Existing skin condition, like psoriasis
- Immune deficiencies, like HIV
- Women who consistently wear tight clothing and underwear
- Women who regularly douche
The following are some important statistics about Vulvovaginal Candidiasis:
- An estimated 75% of all women get a yeast infection once
- The Candida species of yeast can be found in up to 15% of asymptomatic women
- About 20% of women age 15 to 55 harbor Candida Albicans in the vagina
- Women with symptoms report experiencing redness of the vulva 75% of the time
- If a woman has vulvar itching and/or burning, there is a 50% chance that yeast is present
- In 80 to 90% of all cases of yeast infection, VVC is caused by an overgrowth of the yeast Candida Albicans
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