Bacteria are single-celled prokaryote microorganisms, and as the name suggests, they are extremely small (just a few micrometres long). They can be shaped like spirals, rods and spheres. Bacteria can be found almost anywhere on the planet, even in acidic hot springs.
Surprisingly enough, bacteria were first observed more than 300 years ago and they were given the name of animalcules. The name bacterium appeared in the early nineteenth century. It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that an effective treatment became available for bacteria. Single-celled microorganisms have been around for a very long time, about 4 billion years according to scientists, making them one of the first life forms to appear on our planet.
Although bacteria can be responsible for certain diseases, and are always found in or on our bodies, not all bacteria are harmful. In fact, some are essential and are commonly referred to as “friendly bacteria” helping to keep a balance between the good and the bad.
However, for a number of reasons, the “friendly” bacteria can sometimes become outnumbered and this may result in yeast infections, which are also known as Candidiasis. This can affect various areas of the body and quite often the vagina.
The main vaginal yeast infection symptoms include itching, burning, soreness, irritation and a white ‘cottage cheese’ type discharge. Symptoms of vaginal yeast infection may also produce some tenderness in the vagina, which might become more noticeable when having sexual intercourse.
Vaginal yeast infections are likely to affect 75 percent of women during their lives, and half of these will suffer from this infection more than once. Vaginal yeast infections (also known as vaginal thrush) commonly affect women between the ages of 20-39, and especially those that are pregnant.
Women most at risk from this type of infection are those who have been on a course of antibiotics for other illnesses, which kill bacteria and create an imbalance of microorganisms in the vagina, and other parts of the body.
Vaginal thrush, which can also be called vaginal candidiasis, is a yeast infection of the vagina that is very common and is caused by a fungus called Candida Albicans. This species of fungus is naturally found in the vagina and is usually quite harmless. However, if bacterial levels change and an imbalance results, Candida albicans can appear and make this more of a problem.
Candida albicans is a casual organism and is generally easy to treat, although it may recur. It tends to frequently appear in people who are ‘run down’ or those with a depressed immune system, who have been taking immunosuppressive drugs (transplant patients for example). It may also develop in patients suffering from Aids.
Why some women are more likely to have vaginal yeast infections than others is debatable, but this may be due to some underlying health problem, like diabetes which has been poorly controlled (unacceptable blood sugar levels).
Anyone suffering from the symptoms of vaginal yeast infection should consult their doctor for confirmation, in order to rule out any other diseases that may be more serious.