Immune cells called neutrophils
defend the body against disease, but
they’re compromised in people with poorly
controlled diabetes. Some studies show that these cells
have defects in movement and show altered chemical
processes involved in destroying infections—such as
candida. T cells are another infection-;ghting
heavyweight in our immune system, but high blood
glucose may weaken their ability to attack. Adimoolam
says the reason is not yet clear.
Yeast infections can thrive for reasons unrelated to
diabetes. Prolonged or repeated antibiotic use can disrupt
the balance of good bacteria and yeast in the vaginal area
(also known as normal ;ora) that suppress the growth of
bad bacteria and yeast. As the bacteria that keep candida
in check die, the yeast spreads out of control, says
Adimoolam. Older, postmenopausal women are at
increased risk for yeast infections because they produce
less estrogen. Women using certain contraceptives, such
as vaginal sponges and diaphragms, also have a higher
risk. These have been shown to disrupt vaginal ;ora and
boost yeast growth. People taking immunosuppressive
medications—such as those that prevent rejection of
organ transplants—are more likely to get infections.
Over-the-counter creams for vaginal infections and
infections of the skin can help treat a yeast infection early
on, says Camacho. But if it doesn’t clear up after a few
days or if you’ve had several yeast infections in a short
time, Camacho recommends that you talk with your
health care provider. An oral antifungal medication will
probably be prescribed.
Keeping your blood glucose within target range can
prevent a recurrence. “These organisms tend to thrive
when sugars are the highest,” Adimoolam says.
Four simple lifestyle changes can
help you fend off yeast infections.
WEAR BREATHABLE FABRICS. Yeast
thrives in warm environments, so
make sure your vaginal area has
enough air;ow. Opt for cotton
underwear and avoid tight-;tting
undergarments and panty hose.
“Allow for as much air;ow as
possible,” says Deena Adimoolam,
MD, assistant professor of diabetes,
endocrinology, and bone disease at
the Icahn School of Medicine at
Mount Sinai in New York.
FOLLOW PROPER HYGIENE. After
going to the bathroom, wipe front to
back. Wash yourself frequently. Keep
your genitals and the area under skin
folds dry and clean. “It’s all about
controlling moisture,” says Pauline
Camacho, MD, FACE, president of
the American Association of
CHOOSE CONDOMS WISELY. Those
with spermicide can lead to yeast
infections in some women.
AVOID DOUCHES AND SCENTED
SANITARY PRODUCTS. They can
change the pH of the vagina, which
can upset the healthy balance of
vaginal bacteria and make yeast
infections more likely.
Timing my eating correctly a;er a mealtime bolus makes a huge di;erence in my
post-meal blood sugars. —Stephen Price, type 1