For women with diabetes, vaginal infections (vaginitis) can become more prevalent. Infections that afflict all women such as yeast and bacterial infections can become recurrent in diabetic patients. Directly related to the amount of glucose in the body, failure to monitor blood sugar levels creates an ideal environment for the growth of candida (yeast) and bacteria as mucus secretions contain a higher level of glucose.


Typical Diabetes Vaginal Infections


It is likely that every woman will have a yeast infection once in her life. Caused by candida, symptoms of a yeast infection include burning, itching, abnormal discharge, and chafing of the thighs. Triggers for infection can vary. Hygiene plays a role as wearing polyester underwear and pantyhose can cause an infection as can scented tampons, douching, and not changing out of damp clothing immediately. In diabetic women glucose levels complicate these factors. When a woman has a yeast infection due to high glucose levels she is also more likely to contract another infection as her body’s immune response is hampered. Yeast infections in diabetic women can also be an indicator of an infection elsewhere in the body.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common cause of infection in young women. Caused by a change in the vaginal environment such as pH balance, antibiotics, and condoms, lack of sleep, stress, a poor diet, birth control and hormone treatments can all be factors. While bacteria is always present in the vagina, any one of these factors can change the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. Differing from a yeast infection, symptoms of BV include a bad “fish-like” smell, particularly after intercourse, and itching and/or burning during urination. Often without noticeable symptoms, BV is easily detectable by a doctor. BV can be sexually transmitted though male partners are seldom treated. With both infections it is recommendable to avoid sexual intercourse until the infection has cleared.


Treatment and Prevention of Diabetes Vaginal Infections


It is important that diabetic women have regular gynecological check-ups as changes in glucose levels due to factors such as birth control pills, menstruation, and hormone treatment, can manifest themselves as vaginal infections. Additionally, a test is required for proper diagnosis and prescriptions of antibiotics or antifungals. After checking with their doctor for potential complications, women with frequent yeast infections can use over the counter antifungal suppositories. Some evidence suggests that it can take up to two weeks for a diabetes related yeast infections to clear. To reduce the risk of infection it is important to control glucose levels, change out of wet clothes, avoiding douching, use of scented tampons, and tight-fitting underwear.