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Do Thongs Really Cause Yeast Infections?

Published: Monday, March 17, 2003

Updated: Sunday, August 10, 2008 00:08

As the days gradually get warmer, some ladies begin to wear "booty" shorts, tank tops and for undergarments, thongs.

Although thongs may be considered sexy, they are also believed to cause yeast infections, an overgrowth of yeast that are often present in low numbers in the vagina.

While there is no proven evidence to back up the notion that thongs are in fact hazardous to women's health, many women and gynecologists have found that yeast infections are more prevalent in women who are regular thong wearers.

A fungus called Candida albicans causes vaginal yeast infections. While they can be very uncomfortable, yeast infections are usually not serious.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, yeast infections are so common that ? of women will have one at some time in their lives.

Many factors can contribute to this overgrowth of yeast. Certain antibiotics kill normal and harmful vaginal bacteria. Even when antibiotics are used for treatment of other illnesses, they may affect the bacteria in the vagina. This allows yeast in the vagina to overgrow and symptoms occur.

Another factor that may contribute to the overgrowth of yeast is diabetes, which raises blood sugar levels, making the body a good environment for yeast to grow. Yeast infections may occur often and are harder to control when blood sugars are not under control.

"Yeast thrives in a warm, humid environment. Sweating, discharge, or not allowing the area to dry will increase the chance of getting a yeast infection," says Georgetown University Hospital gynecologist Dr. Amee Bradshaw.

Bradshaw notes that thongs are believed to irritate the vagina, not allowing it enough air.

"Because of this, many associate yeast infections with the repetitious wearing of thongs," she says.

However, these are only a few factors that may cause the overgrowth of yeast.

Other factors that cause yeast infection include taking antibiotics to kill bad bacteria, which ends up killing good bacteria in the vagina. Douches, deodorized tampons and condoms with the lubricant, nonoxynol-9 also contribute to yeast infections.

Most women will experience similar symptoms, although some vary.

Some of these symptoms may include itching and burning in the vagina and around the outside of the vagina, a white vaginal discharge that may look like cottage cheese, pain during sexual intercourse, and/or swelling of the vulva.

Ashley Grimsdale,* a freshman broadcast journalism major knows about the over usage of thongs all too well.

"Once I wore thongs for two weeks straight and I ended up with a really nasty infection," Grimsdale said. "I went straight to the store to get some normal underwear and I've been better since."

Tamaira Hollis,* a senior theater arts major says she is skeptical about wearing thongs.

"I only wear thongs when I am going to a special event and don't want my panty line to show," Hollis said. "Other than that, I don't bother with them, I wore a thong for two days straight and ended up having a yeast infection. "

There are many medications used for treatment of yeast infections. Most are creams or suppositories used once or twice a day for up to seven days.

Over the counter creams include Vagisil and Monistat 7. Diflucan, a prescribed remedy, is also a popular treatment of yeast infections. This one pill takes awhile to get rid of the yeast but it is very effective in preventing reoccurring symptoms.

Physician at HUH, Dr. Allison James says once these creams are taken symptoms often disappear within 3-5 days of treatment. However, it is important that the treatment be continued for the entire time the medicine was prescribed.

"If the medication is stopped too soon, the infection can return," says James.

These medicines can be prescribed by a doctor and over the counter to prevent reoccurring yeast infections.

To avoid this problem, the best bet is to sport unbleached, clean cotton undies. Many panties with less visible lines are popping up on the market, giving ladies alternatives to thongs.

*Name changed at request of interviewee.

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