Women diagnosed with diabetes face the possibility of multiple health complications. One of the most common complications women may have is frequent vaginal yeast infections. When blood sugars are elevated and uncontrolled, this sets the scene for the likelihood of a yeast infection. In fact, it’s often because a woman either has or is experiencing recurrent yeast infections, that her doctor will test her blood sugar checking for diabetes.
What is a vaginal yeast infection?
Also known as candidiasis, yeast infections are a type of fungal infection manifesting itself with itchiness, irritation, and discharge. Diabetes is only one factor that can increase a woman’s risk for yeast infections. Other factors might be birth control pills, certain antibiotics, an impaired immune system, hormone therapy, and sexual activity.
A woman’s vagina is the perfect area for a yeast infection to grow – it’s warm, moist and naturally contains a mix of yeast and bacteria. When these two are balanced, yeast growth will be kept under control. But any kind of bodily imbalance – such as elevated blood sugar levels – can trigger an excessive amount of yeast overgrowth. That’s when signs and symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection begin to present themselves.
Why does excess sugar in the blood trigger a yeast infection? Yeast loves sugar. This is why managing blood sugar control in women with diabetes is critical to prevent the unpleasant symptoms of a yeast infection.
How women with diabetes can reduce vaginal yeast infections
Whether a woman with diabetes has yeast infections or not, controlling blood sugar as much as possible is imperative for her long-term health. Even just several days of elevated blood sugar may set off excessive yeast growth resulting in a yeast infection.
One of the first steps is for a woman’s doctor to periodically screen for yeast infections. Having a set screening schedule, especially for women prone to developing them, can catch them at an earlier stage reducing the length of time a woman has one.
Other important steps women should do reducing their risk of yeast infections are the following:
- Always wipe front to back after using the bathroom preventing the spread of germs
- After bathing or swimming, dry this region thoroughly. Also, avoid sitting around in a wet suit which only creates a moist environment yeast thrives on.
- Wear underwear made with a cotton liner keeping the area more cool and dry
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting underwear or pants trapping body heat
- Never douche
- Avoid placing any “homemade” remedies such as apple cider vinegar in the vagina
- Change pads and tampons frequently and avoid any scented feminine hygiene products
Most importantly, women having frequent yeast infections should address persistently high blood sugar levels with their doctor. They can review medications for diabetes and make other suggestions for managing their disease.
Also, ask to be referred to a registered dietitian who specializes in working with patients with diabetes. By learning carbohydrate counting and choosing healthy foods, planning meals, increasing exercise, reducing stress, and losing weight if needed, all help towards the goal of gaining better blood sugar control.
Maintaining your blood sugar levels may help reduce your risk of infection. If you have diabetes, you should undergo periodic screening for vaginal yeast infections. Some types of candidiasis can lead to serious health complications if left untreated. Talk with your doctor about the best screening schedule for you.