Yeast infections are common for lots of women whether they have HIV or not. They are a sign your body’s off balance. For women with HIV, yeast infections can become chronic and difficult to treat as the immune system weakens. A vicious circle is created: chronic yeast infections weaken the immune system, and a weakened immune system can’t fight yeast. Vaginal yeast infections can also make you more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections.
Yeast is always in your body and usually doesn’t cause problems but when there is an overgrowth, you’ll experience symptoms of a yeast infection. Yeast infections can occur in the vagina, mouth and throat (known as thrush). As your CD4+ cell counts fall below 200, the risk of repeated yeast infections increases.
Once you’ve had one, you’ll usually know when you have a yeast infection. Symptoms include:
In the mouth, you’ll see a thick coating on the tongue, and/or an itchy, white coating in the throat.
An overgrowth of yeast can be caused by:
Infections can occur at any CD4+ count, but they may become more severe as your count drops.
If you’re not sure if it’s a yeast infection, see a doctor for confirmation. Yeast infections can often be treated with over-the-counter creams and vaginal suppositories. If these don’t work, or don’t work for long, follow up with a doctor. You might do better with a prescription for a pill taken orally. Thrush should always be seen by a doctor.
There are some common approaches for reducing the risk of yeast infections. These don’t improve things for everyone, but they’re worth a try: