Yeast infections are a common infection and most women will experience at least one yeast infection during the course of their lives. Unfortunately, women with diabetes are especially susceptible to an unhealthy increase in Candida, or yeast cells. In a normal, healthy woman, Candida living in the vagina is kept in constant balance and control by the acidic nature of the inside of the vagina. Women with diabetes have vaginal secretions that tend to have more glucose in them due to their generally higher levels of glucose in the blood. The normal Candida cells are able to nourish themselves on the extra glucose, which leads to their growth and multiplication, eventually causing them to overrun the vaginal area.
The problems women with diabetes experience with Candida are exacerbated by the fact that their high levels of glucose also interfere with the immune functions that help prevent yeast infections. In other words, when the Candida begin to multiply, a diabetic woman is less likely to have the immune system resources available to fight the growth and infection. Often, frequent yeast infections in women with diabetes serve as a sign that they are not properly controlling their blood glucose levels. The presence of yeast in the vagina can also have additional risks applying strictly to women with diabetes. For example, due to the combination of yeast and high blood sugar, when a woman with diabetes has a yeast infection, she is more likely to get other infections as well. As any diabetic knows, infections in a person with diabetes pose additional risks because blood sugars may become more irregular while the body tries to fight infection.
Women with diabetes should be acutely aware of the possibility of excessive Candida growth and the symptoms of a yeast infection. Yeast infections often cause itching in the vaginal area, in addition to white secretions with an unpleasant odor that resemble cottage cheese. Severe discomfort or pain with urination or sexual intercourse can also be a sign of a yeast infection. Unless they are very observant, some women with diabetes may not even realize that are getting yeast infections on a regular basis. It is important to address any change in the skin since yeast infections can also occur in other locations (including moist areas around the feet, skin folds or in the mouth). Women with diabetes are not only at risk for increased levels of Candida and yeast infections, but also for the more serious infections they often result in.
If you are a woman with diabetes and are unsure if you are experiencing the symptoms of a yeast infection, an examination by your doctor can determine if the infection is in fact due to an increase in Candida or if it is from another source. A sample will be collected and sent to a lab, where technicians will use a microscope to look at a cell sample in order to confirm whether or not it contains high levels of Candida. These tests are usually conclusive, but sometimes other laboratory tests may be needed in order to confirm a yeast infection.
If a yeast infection diagnosis is confirmed, women should ask their doctors for treatment options and prescriptions. If you have not previously been diagnosed with diabetes and are experiencing four or more yeast infections per year, ask your doctor to check for diabetes.