Vaginal Yeast Infections & Diabetes: What’s The Connection?

African American woman smilingYeast infections are a common female condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 75 percent of women will experience a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime. Yeast infections may also be a sign of diabetes. In fact, a gynecologist is often first to discover diabetes.

What Causes Yeast Infection

Vaginal yeast infection is an infection of the vagina due to an overgrowth of the fungus candida albicans. “A normal healthy vagina contains bacteria and yeast at all times,” says Lucille Hughes MSN/Ed, CDE, BC-ADM, FAADE, Director of Diabetes Education, South Nassau Communities Hospital, New York. “It is when the balance between the two is off that yeast can multiply and cause symptoms of a yeast infection.” This imbalance can happen if you are taking antibiotics used to treat another infection, are pregnant, obese or have diabetes.

Infections, in general, appear to be more common in people with diabetes when blood glucose – also, called blood sugar, control is poor. High blood glucose above 180 – 220 mg/dl is associated with a weakened immune system. Moreover, a vaginal yeast infection can be more frequent in people with a compromised immune system. “High blood glucose also feeds the yeast. So, as the blood sugar levels spike, so does the level of yeast in the vagina,” says Hughes. “This imbalance between the bacteria and yeast increases a women’s risk for a vaginal yeast infection.”

A yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted infection(STI) because you can get a yeast infection without having sex. However, some men will develop symptoms such as itching and a rash on the penis after having sexual contact with an infected partner.