Dr Mojirayo Ajayi, a Consultant Family Physician at De-Cross Maternity Hospital, Jericho Ibadan, says half of women affected with vaginal yeast infection are unaware of the disease.
Ajayi made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ibadan on Saturday.
“There is a specie of yeast known as Candida that can be present in the vagina without causing any symptoms.
“In fact, it is estimated that 20 per cent to 50 per cent of women have candida already present in their vagina,’’ she said.
According to Ajayi, for an infection to occur, the normal balance of yeast and bacteria is disturbed, allowing overgrowth of the yeast.
“While yeast can be spread by sexual contact, vaginal yeast infection is not considered to be sexually transmitted disease because it can also occur in women who are not sexually active.
“This is due to the fact that yeast can be present in the vagina of healthy women as well,’’ said the expert.
Ajayi defined a vaginal yeast infection as an infection caused by yeast (a type of fungus) in the vaginal, adding that it is sometimes referred to as ‘candida vaginitis’.
She said that vagina yeast infections are very common in women, affecting up to 75 per cent of women at some point in life.
According to her, signs and symptoms of vaginal yeast included vagina discharged (which is typically thick), odourless and whitish-grey in colour.
She listed other symptoms to include an intense itching of the vaginal or genital area, irritation and burning, painful sexual intercourse, pain or burning during urination and redness, or soreness of the vagina.
Ajayi also explained that vagina yeast infections could occur when new yeast is introduced into the vaginal area, or when there is an increase in the quantity of yeast already present in the vagina, relative to the quantity of normal bacteria.
“For example, when the normal, protective bacteria are eradicated by antibiotics (taken to treat some ailments), the yeast can multiply, invade tissues, and cause irritation of the lining of the vagina (vaginitis).
“Vaginal yeast infections can also occur as a result of injury to the inner vagina, such as after chemotherapy.
“Also, women with suppressed immune systems (for example, those taking cortisone-related medications) develop vaginal yeast infections more frequently than women with normal immunity.
“Other conditions that may predispose women to developing vaginal yeast infections include: diabetes, pregnancy and taking oral contraceptives.
“The use of douches or perfumed vaginal hygiene sprays may also increase a woman’s risk of developing a vaginal yeast infection.
“A vaginal yeast infection is not considered to be a sexually transmitted disease (STD), since candida may be present in the normal vagina, and the condition does occur in celibate women.
“However, it is possible for men to develop symptoms of skin irritation of the penis from a yeast infection after sexual intercourse with an infected partner, although this is not always the case,” she said.
Ajayi said that taking steps to reduce moisture in the genital area can reduce the chances of developing a yeast infection.
According to him, wearing cotton underwear or wearing loose-fitting pants, and avoiding prolonged wearing of wet workout gear or bathing suits, are all measures that can help control moisture.
She said the above steps would help reduce the chance of getting a yeast infection, adding that medical intervention should be sought from the hospital to have the condition properly diagnosed.