How Women With Diabetes Can Reduce Risk of Yeast Infections
Diabetes poses a host of problems for women’s health, and among the most common are yeast infections. In fact, it’s such a telltale sign that doctors often will test a woman who has recurring infections for diabetes if she doesn’t already know she has the disease.
Diabetes—particularly the occurrence of high blood glucose levels—can cause a bodily imbalance that can lead to an overgrowth of yeast, which thrive in warm, moist places, like your vagina. Diabetic women who have difficulty controlling their blood sugar are more susceptible to yeast infections, but there are steps you can take to stave off infections.
It’s essential for women with diabetes to keep their blood sugar levels under control. Yeast eat sugar, and with all that extra glucose in your system, you’ll only fuel the problem. In addition to keeping your blood sugar in the normal range, adopt these habits to keep yeast infections at bay.
- Change tampons or pads frequently.
- Make sure your underwear has a cotton liner, which helps keep you cool and dry.
- Dry yourself thoroughly after bathing or swimming.
Eat some unsweetened yogurt with live cultures—the good bacteria that help keep yeast in check. Alternatively, you can get these good bacteria, called probiotics, as a capsule in a nutrition store, but talk to your doctor before adding supplements to your diet.
- When using the bathroom, wipe front to back, which helps prevent germs from spreading.
Wear tight-fitting underwear or pants, which can trap body heat. Instead, choose looser clothes made of nature fibers so you’ll stay dryer.
Sit around in a wet bathing suit or workout gear, which creates the moist environment yeast love.
- Take long, hot baths. That goes for soaking in a hot tub, too.
Use bubble bath or scented tampons, which can irritate the vagina. Printed toilet paper is also a big no-no. Steer clear of anything with perfumes or dyes.
- Douche, which washes away the good bacteria that prevent an overgrowth of yeast.
If you do develop a yeast infection, you can try an over-the-counter medication to treat it. Creams and suppositories are usually effective for mild to moderate symptoms, and they’re safe for pregnant women. A few things to know about these types of short-course vaginal therapies: You might feel some burning as a side effect, and the treatment might reduce the effectiveness of condoms or birth control. If this is a consideration, talk to your doctor about other methods of preventing pregnancy.
Oral medications must be prescribed by your doctor. Single-dose and multi-dose medication might be needed to treat more severe symptoms.
As a non-medicinal way to help get rid of a yeast infection, change your underwear often to stay dryer.
If left untreated, a yeast infection may go away on its own, often when menstruation begins. But for women with diabetes, yeast infections may return frequently. A small percentage of women suffer four or more yeast infections a year, a sign of recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC), which is more common in women with diabetes. If you believe you have RVVC, talk to your doctor about treatment options for you. You might need to begin a medication regimen, possibly up to six months of treatment, to prevent future infections.
While it’s less common, men can develop yeast infections on the penis, and men with diabetes are at higher risk. Yeast infections aren’t usually spread through sexual contact, but if you have a yeast infection, it is possible to pass it to your sex partner, who then can reinfect you. Your partner won’t always need to be tested or treated for a yeast infection, but if you suffer frequent infections, you may both need to be treated. Talk to your doctor if this is a concern.
Uncontrolled blood sugar isn’t the only cause of yeast infections—three out of every four women will get one in their life—but it contributes to frequent, recurring infections. Bottom line? Do everything you can to keep your diabetes under control to reduce your risk for yeast infections.