What is a Yeast Infection?
We normally have a limited, controlled number of yeast in our body. However, there are instances when the yeast multiplies uncontrollably in a particular body part or they enter the supposedly microorganism-free bloodstream.
In those instances, we say that there is a yeast infection.
A yeast infection happens when there’s an overgrowth of yeast (fungi) in a particular part of the body or they reach the normally sterile bloodstream. It can happen to anyone, but some people (even babies) are more likely to develop it than others due to some risk factors.
The most common cause of yeast infections is the Candida fungus, particularly Candida albicans.
Yeast Infection vs UTI
There’s quite a confusion between what a yeast infection is and how it’s different from urinary tract infections (UTIs).
The best way to remember the difference between yeast infection vs UTI is to think of the microorganisms that cause them. Yeast infections happen due to yeast or fungi, while UTIs occur mostly due to bacteria.
Furthermore, UTIs lead to symptoms that generally affect the person’s ability to pass urine (more frequent, painful urination, etc.) while most cases of yeast infections lead to superficial symptoms (itching, redness, etc.)
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Symptoms of a Yeast Infection
The symptoms of yeast infection vary slightly depending on where it happened, but generally, it involves a thrush, consisting of white substance, or a red rash.
Case in point: thrush occurring in the mouth or throat presents with white, cottage-cheese-lesions. On the other hand, a yeast infection in your baby’s bottom may look like red rashes with reddish bumps or dots around the edges.
A yeast infection may also occur in the navel or belly button area, as well as skin folds. Symptoms include itching and burning sensation, red rashes, pimples, and patches that ooze with clear discharge.
When a fungal infection happens in the nails, it usually presents with swelling, pain, and yellow or white nail that “detaches” or separates from the nailbed.
To describe the symptoms of a yeast infection more clearly, let’s talk about how men and women have it differently.
Yeast Infection in Men
Many people only associate yeast infection with women; however, yeast infection in men is also possible.
Male yeast infection often results in balanitis, the inflammation of the head of the penis (that’s why some people also call it penile yeast infection). Below are the symptoms of balanitis:
- Appearance of white, shiny area on the skin of the penis.
- Redness, itching, and burning sensation in the penis.
- Appearance of moist areas in the penis. This may also look like there’s thick, white substance collecting in the skin folds.
Yeast infection in men may also present as jock itch. Jock itch is more common among athletes, because the fungus thrives in warm, moist areas covered by tight clothing.
Jock itch presents as a red, scaly rash that feels intensely itchy. Men can develop it in various parts, commonly in their:
- Inner thighs
- Buttocks or the crease in the buttocks.
Yeast Infection in Women
Yeast infection in women may occur in several ways, but the most common are vaginal yeast infection and breast or nipple thrush.
Vaginal infections or vulvovaginal candidiasis are common; in fact, women may experience it a couple of times in their lifetime. Vaginal yeast infection symptoms include:
- Itchy feeling in the vagina and vulva.
- Redness in both the vaginal and vulva.
- Presence of thick, white substance in the vagina (the consistency is similar to cottage cheese). This is the hallmark yeast infection discharge.
- Burning sensation during urination.
- Tiny cracks of cuts on the skin of the vulva.
Sometimes, vaginal yeast infection may also lead to pain during sexual intercourse.
Another way that yeast infection occurs in women is breast or nipple thrush. This condition is more common among nursing mothers and often leads to pain during breastfeeding. Due to the pain, some mothers are forced to stop breastfeeding their baby even when they still want to give them breast milk.
Common symptoms of breast or nipple thrush include:
- Nipple pain, which may feel worse when you take a shower.
- Itchy breast
- The appearance of rashes in the breast.
- Reduced milk supply for breastfeeding.
- Severe nipple or breast pain, that even light touch from the clothing hurts.
Anal Yeast Infection
Some cases of yeast infection occur in the anus, causing intense itching which doctors call pruritus ani. The other symptoms of anal yeast infection in both men and women include:
- Burning sensation in the anus, along with itching and redness.
- Damaged skin, secondary to constant itching.
- Occasional discharge in the anus.
- Pain and soreness in the affected area.
Final Reminders on the Yeast Infection Symptoms
The bottom line is, yeast infection symptoms vary from person to person. They also depend on the affected body part. Generally, the symptoms of a yeast infection involve redness, itch, and white discharge, often with the consistency of cottage cheese.
Are Yeast Infections Contagious?
One of the most common questions concerning yeast infections is if it’s contagious. According to experts, yeast infections are not really contagious, but they can be transmitted.
This means people can get yeast or fungi from person to person contact, however, getting the fungi doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop an infection, too.
Like mentioned earlier, we normally have yeast in our body, so getting it from another person is usually not a problem, especially if we have a strong immune system capable of thwarting off an overgrowth.
An infection becomes possible when the person is already prone to developing it, such as when he or she has diabetes, an autoimmune disorder, or has inadequate good bacteria to balance out the yeast.
How Long Does a Yeast Infection Last?
At this point, you must be wondering: how long does a yeast infection last?
Reports say yeast infections typically clear within a few days of starting treatment. However, it’s possible for you to experience residual symptoms, such as itchiness and irritation, even after the infection is gone.
In case you’re not still not feeling better a couple of days after completing your treatment, you need to go back to your doctor.
What About Recurring Yeast Infection?
Experts say 5 to 8% of women experience recurring yeast infection, a condition characterized by developing the fungal infection at least four times in a year.
If the doctor finds out you have a recurring yeast infection, they might give you a longer course treatment consisting of several doses of one antifungal drug, followed by weekly doses for the next six months or so.
One important thing to note about recurring yeast infection is that long-course treatment may prevent its symptoms, however, they might recur once treatment stops.
Yeast Infection Causes
What causes yeast infection? Like mentioned earlier yeast infection happens when there’s an overgrowth of fungi in the body. In other words, there’s an imbalance in the number of microorganisms, and the yeast are taking over.
Basically, yeast loves warm, moist areas – it’s where they thrive and multiply. You might develop an infection if you have conditions that make you prone to it.
Such conditions include:
Since babies have naturally weak immune systems, they might develop yeast infection in the form of oral thrush or diaper rash.
Adults who have underlying conditions, such as HIV, are also immunocompromised. People who are currently receiving treatment for cancer may also have an increased risk of developing a yeast infection.
Finally, some medications predispose a person to have lower immunity, such as those who had an organ transplant and had to take steroids.
Both men and women who have diabetes, especially those who couldn’t reach their target glucose goals, are more at risk of developing yeast infections.
Use of Dentures
People who use dentures are more likely to experience oral candidiasis or oral thrush.
Finally on our list of yeast infection risk factors, we have antibiotic therapy.
According to reports, most antibiotics kill a wide range of bacteria, including those found in the vagina. With fewer good bacteria in the vagina, the growth of yeast may not be controlled, leading to increased yeast infection risk.
Additional Risks For Women
The use of oral contraceptives containing estrogen increases a woman’s risk of having yeast infection. Additionally, contraceptive devices, such as diaphragms, vaginal sponges, and intrauterine devices, heighten the probability as well. Yeast infection during pregnancy and breastfeeding are also more common.
Additional Risks For Men
Men who are not circumcised and those who have excess body weight are more at risk of developing yeast infection.
When Should I Worry About A Yeast Infection?
Generally, yeast infections are not life-threatening. People usually feel better after a few days of treatment. However, there are cases when the infection enters the normally sterile bloodstream and causes symptoms like fever and chills or respiratory problems. This could lead to system-wide infection that needs more aggressive treatment
If you have symptoms of a yeast infection in any part of your body, set an appointment with a doctor. In case visiting a clinic or hospital is not yet a practical option, consider booking telemedicine service where a doctor can attend to you online.
Yeast Infection Diagnosis
Yeast infection diagnosis is typically straightforward. After approaching your doctor about superficial symptoms, they would look closer into the symptoms and possibly request microorganism culture to determine what kind of fungus caused the symptoms.
For invasive infections, the one that enters the bloodstream, the doctor may request some blood tests and even urine tests. The presence of white or red blood cells in the urine may alert the doctor of a problem.
Yeast Infection Treatment
Most cases of superficial yeast infections are easy to treat with a yeast infection medicine. Of course, it still depends on where your yeast infection occurred and the symptoms you exhibit.
Below are some of the common treatment strategies for yeast infections.
May need antifungal creams. Some of the yeast infection cream medicines are clotrimazole, miconazole, and terconazole. If you have a stronger infection, then the doctor may give you a stronger medicine, like nystatin. Some cases of jock itch also need oral antifungals, such as fluconazole.
Vaginal and Anal Yeast Infections
May also need creams or suppositories (medicines you need to insert into the vagina). The doctor may also order one dose of an oral antifungal, such as fluconazole or ketoconazole for short-term infections. Recurring vaginal yeast infections may require a longer-course antifungal treatment and a change in birth control method.
May get well with antifungal creams, too; but if it happens to uncircumcised men and don’t respond too well with treatment, the doctor may recommend circumcision.
Yeast Infection in Pregnancy
Is it safe to treat a yeast infection during pregnancy? Generally, it is, as long as you use topical treatments (creams, ointments, etc.) or suppositories. Do not proceed with an oral yeast infection medicine, like fluconazole, as it may lead to some birth defects.
A yeast infection, like all conditions occurring in pregnancy, should only be handled and treated under the guidance of a doctor.
Reminders When Taking a Yeast Infection Medicine
Most yeast infection medicines and creams are sold over the counter, which means you don’t need a doctor’s prescription to buy them. However, it’s not advisable to proceed with treatment without your doctor’s signal.
This is because you need to make sure first that you’re dealing with yeast infection and not another condition.
Case in point: many women, upon noticing some symptoms, immediately assume they have yeast infection and buy a yeast infection cream. To their surprise, they don’t get better. Upon their medical check-up, the doctor informs them it’s not a yeast infection but bacterial vaginosis. While they have similarities, bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection require different treatment strategies.
Another problem with self-medicating is resistance. People who receive yeast infection medicines when they don’t have a fungal infection may become resistant to the drug. This is problematic since they may not respond well to the medicine should they actually develop the infection.
Home Remedies and Prevention for Yeast Infection
Please note that the home remedies used to alleviate the symptoms of yeast infection are also the ways to prevent future infections from happening.
If you want to hasten recovery and avoid the recurrence of yeast infection, consider the following practices:
Practice Good Hygiene
Remember that yeast thrives in warm, moist areas of the body. For this reason, make it a point to shower right after a strenuous physical activity that makes you sweat a lot.
Additionally, don’t sit around in your wet bathing suit longer than necessary, and avoid wearing tight clothing.
For women, it would be best not to wear pantyliners daily as they trap moisture and attract yeast overgrowth. Additionally, avoid using scented feminine care products, sanitary pads, or tampons.
For Women, Avoid Douching
Douching is the method of washing the inside of the vagina with a mixture of liquids, such as water, vinegar, and herbal extracts. This practice may do more harm than good, since it can irritate the vagina and make it more vulnerable to infections.
Another thing to keep in mind is this: DO NOT put anything inside the vagina or apply anything on it unless prescribed by the doctor.
For instance, some women apply yogurt to their vagina since it contains good bacteria that they believe might thwart off yeast. The problem is yogurt also has sugar that promotes yeast growth.
Finally, don’t rely on soaking in bath water with vinegar. The idea is vinegar makes the vagina more acidic, disabling yeast from growing. However, this practice has very little evidence. Furthermore, it might cause a burning sensation and irritation that makes the vagina more prone to infection.
Probiotics for Yeast Infection
Probiotics for yeast infection treatment is not yet proven. Some people believe that since probiotics add to the number of good bacteria in the body, it helps keep the amount of yeast in check, too.
Doctors say we need more studies to determine if probiotics actually help against yeast infection, but they agree that for most people, there’s no harm in adding some into their diet.
Choose products with lactobacillus in them, since those are the bacteria found in the vagina. Some products that have probiotics are kefir and yogurt.
Keep Your Underlying Condition Under Control
One of the home remedies for yeast infection is to keep your existing condition under control.
Case in point: if you have diabetes, you need to make sure that you’re reaching your glucose level goals.
Yeast infections are common and usually not a cause of concern mainly because they are easy to treat with antifungal oral medicines, cream, ointment, or suppositories. If you develop symptoms of yeast infection, it would be best to set an appointment with your doctor to receive the most appropriate treatment.
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