How Diabetics Can Treat and Prevent Yeast Infections
If you're a woman with diabetes, you've probably found yourself at the drugstore more than once, trying to figure out which over the counter medication would be most effective for the symptoms of itching and burning that signal another yeast infection.
Diabetic women are much more prone than non-diabetic women to getting yeast infections simply because yeast likes sugar, and sugar may be in the woman's urine.
"There's just more sugar around for the yeast to feed off," explains Elizabeth Poynor, MD, Ph.D., FACOG, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Also, women with diabetes can have a blunted immune response to an infection, since their immune system is not as strong."
It's not just women who have sky-high blood sugars who are at risk. "Women whose blood sugars are regularly in the 180s and 190s are very susceptible to yeast infections," says Amy Hess Fischl, MS, RD, LDN, BC-ADM, CDE, of the University of Chicago Kovler Diabetes Center.
"Even with a modestly elevated blood sugar, there still will be some sugar in the urine," says Stuart Weiss, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "And with sugar in the urine, it's fertile ground for yeast."
Fortunately, there are many effective treatments today. Here are some tips for treating, and preventing, yeast infections.
- Over-the-counter medications to treat yeast infections "work very nicely," says Weiss, and it's certainly convenient to not have to get a prescription when you suspect a yeast infection. However, if you continually get the symptoms of yeast infections, check with your health care provider. You may need a prescription-strength medication for a difficult-to-treat infection.
- Don't be tempted to stop taking the medication just because your symptoms abate, says Fischl. "Many people don't complete the medication or they just take it once," she says. "Keep taking it until it's finished."
- Maintain good blood sugar control so the yeast don't have a welcoming environment in which to grow.
- Avoid using bubble baths and scented soaps, since they can not only be harsh and irritating, but can promote the development of yeast infections. "Some of these products can actually start to alter the microenvironment of the vagina, which can lead to a yeast infection," Poynor explains.
- Wear all-cotton underwear and avoid wearing very tight-fitting clothing in general. Don't walk around in a wet bathing suit. Change out of it into clean, dry clothing as soon as you get home from the beach.
- Consider taking acidophilus supplements or eating yogurt that has live cultures. "You can get acidophilus in many forms today, even as a powder in the health food store," Poynor says. "It's a good idea to use these as a preventive measure against yeast infections."
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