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Douching is part of women’s hygienic practices which involves cleaning the vaginal area with the use of vaginal wash products and even homemade ones. Likewise, vaginal washing with soap and water every morning and after sex is believed to be preventing various vaginal diseases like yeast infection.
Often times, women douche more than once or twice a day, without knowing that they are already putting themselves into a risk towards yeast infection because excessive vaginal washing can eliminate not only the harmful bacteria but also the good ones.
These good microorganisms naturally stay in the vagina and they provide defence against other harmful microorganisms. Along with the good microflora, yeasts also a microorganism, co-exist with them in the various portions of human body with the same purpose.
Moreover, Dr Adebola Roberts, a Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecologist, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State, stated that it was misleading to ask women to use soap to wash the vaginal environment to maintain its hygiene.
“In fact, women are not supposed to use soap to wash their vagina because there is a particular acidity that is present in the vaginal environment. Using soap, most of which are alkaline in nature, can alter the vaginal environment favouring the fungus yeast.
“Cleaning or washing of the vagina with soap and water, in fact may inadvertently lead to the development of other conditions which were not there before. So, the advice is actually for women to use clean water if they really need to wash up. Indeed, using soap is being discouraged everywhere in the world and women really do not need to use soap in the vagina.”
What is Candida? Vaginal thrush (thrush) is a yeast infection caused by a type of fungus of the candida species, usually Candida albicans. It can affect all women, but is more common among women who are pregnant, those who have weakened immune systems, and women aged 30 to 50. Thrush is generally recurring - it comes back.
The fungus, Candida albicans, exists naturally in the vagina. As long as it does not multiply too much, a woman will not notice it is there. However, it can sometimes multiply to such an extent that it causes swelling of the vagina and vulva (the external genital organs of the female).
Most women have a vaginal yeast infection at some time. Candida albicans is a common type of fungus. It is often found in small amount in the vagina, mouth, digestive tract, and on the skin. Usually, it does not cause disease or show symptoms. Candida and the many other germs that normally live in the vagina keep each other in balance. However, sometimes the number of Candida albicans increases, leading to a yeast infection.
Although women with vaginal yeast infection usually manifest signs and symptoms that are common among other genitourinary infection, Dr Robert said that its most disturbing symptom is vaginal itchiness that may spread throughout the vulvar area. Other symptoms include burning sensation in the vagina, vaginal swelling or soreness, painful sexual intercourse, painful urination and white, cottage-cheese like vaginal discharge.
According to him, sometimes, the vaginal itchiness is so terrible that the affected woman may not be able to sit down because of the severity of the itching.
“Aside the foul odour discharge, due to the itching, the genital develops sores. So, when a woman develops candidiasis, it is better to seek medical treatment.
A swab test is done to confirm the pathogenic cause of the vaginal infection and then to commence treatment.”
Meanwhile, Dr Roberts stated that candidiasis is a fungal infection that can sometimes be sexually transmittable. “One can acquire candida from a male partner who is infected. Sadly, men do not have symptoms of this fungal infection, thus making this a major issue, ” he explained.
Moreover, he stated also that erroneously, many people have described it as toilet disease, stressing that much as it can be contracted from an infected toilet bowl, it was wrong to label it a toilet disease.
Mr Abiodun Ajibade, an industrial pharmacist with Avid Nigerian Limited, Mokola, Ibadan, stated that a candida overgrowth can occur from the use of many drugs, including antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, steroids and immunosuppressants which reduce body’s ability to fight infections.
He stated: “The abuse of antibiotics may cause disequilibrium in fungi-bacteria population thereby enhancing overgrowth of candida albican, hence the infection.”
In addition, Mr Ajibade declared that in diabetes, the level of sugar in urine causes an overgrowth of candida, ditto the irritation and sores (lesion) in the vaginal wall during sexual intercourse without appropriate lubrication serving as a medium for the growth of candida albicans.
Mr Ajibade, however, stressed the importance of personal hygiene in the prevention of this fungal infection. According to him, sharing of personal materials with infected colleagues, sharing of towels or underwear with an infected individual should be avoided since the fungus can be transmitted through sharing of personal materials.
Also, the cleaning procedure of front to back should be adopted as against back to front. This is to prevent carriage of faecal waste into the vaginal area, leading to infection as a result of increased microbial load.
In addition, in order to prevent vaginal candidiasis, he stated that synthetic and tight underwear should be avoided because this creates an environment for overgrowth of candida albicans and vaginal candidiasis. Rather, loose underwear and relaxed pants are more advantageous. Similarly, wearing dirty and/or wet pants create a good avenue for the growth of vaginal candidiasis. The use of sanitary pads, tampons, birth control pills and devices also must be done with adequate knowledge of safe use.