Yeast Infection: The Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


What is yeast infection?

Yeast infection also commonly referred to as candidiasis or moniliasis is an infection caused by the uncontrolled propagation of yeast primarily of the candida genus. Candida yeast exists harmlessly in your body particularly the skin and their growth is kept in check by the immune system and other microorganisms in the same area. The most common culprit is the Candida Albicans species of yeast. These yeasts require moisture to grow and therefore prefer areas such as the mouth, armpits, nail beds and genitals, making these the areas where infection is most likely to occur. Candida infection isn’t dangerous except when yeast enters the blood stream and spreads to sensitive organs in the body. This condition is very common; in the course of your lifetime, you are bound to get at least one infection.

What are the most common types of yeast infection and what are their symptoms?

Candidiasis can be broadly categorized as either superficial or invasive. The superficial varieties mainly affect the skin and mucous membrane and include oral, esophageal, vaginal, penis, skin and infant yeast infections.

Some common symptoms of candidiasis include changes in mucous membrane, foul smelling liquid discharges and irritation in affected areas. However the symptoms tend to vary according to the type of infection one is suffering. Oral candidiasis can be identified by the presence of a yellow or cream coating on the tongue and mouth known as thrush. Other symptoms may include discolored patches on the tongue and palate, red or pink blotches on the palate as well as red cracks at the corners of the mouth.

It is possible to for oral candidiasis to spread down into the esophagus and pharynx in which case you are likely to experience difficulty and pain when swallowing.

Perhaps the most well known and most common type of yeast infection is that which affects the vagina. Vaginal yeast infections, as suggested by the name affect the female genitalia and are of course specific to women. It is a very common condition. In fact 3 out of 4 women have it in varying degrees of severity in the course of their lifetimes. Symptoms include itching, a burning sensation, irritation, soreness and the presence of a white or grayish discharge with a fishy smell.

It is a common misconception that men are not affected by genital yeast infection, but the truth is they are also susceptible. However this condition is much rarer compared to its prevalence among women. Signs of male genitalia infection include redness around the head of the penis, itching, swelling and irritation of the head of the penis. These may also be accompanied by an unpleasant smell, pain during sex and urination, difficulty retracting the penis into the foreskin and a white discharge under the foreskin. In men it may also manifest itself around the crotch and feet. Common signs of male yeast infection include athletes foot and jock itch.

If you spend a lot of time with your hands in water, you may get candidiasis of the finger nails. It manifests as red, swollen areas around the nails and is accompanied by considerable pain. In more severe cases, it may lead to separation of fingernails, exposing a discolored nail bed.

If you spend a lot of time with your hands in water, you may get candidiasis of the finger nails. It manifests as red, swollen areas around the nails and is accompanied by considerable pain. In more severe cases, it may lead to separation of fingernails, exposing a discolored nail bed.

Infant yeast infection may occur in babies who are delivered or breastfed by infected mothers. You can detect infection on your baby by looking for red patches that look like diaper rashes. if the rash doesn’t disappear within a week this should give you sufficient cause for suspicion and you should have your child examined by a doctor.

Candidemia is a condition in which yeast enters the blood stream and precipitates a very serious condition especially if it spreads to vital organs such as the heart. The mortality rate among patients with this condition is between 30% and 50%, though the opportunistic nature of the candida yeast means that it mainly kills those with severe immune-deficiency conditions such as AIDS. It is very rare among healthy people and deaths are even less common.

What causes yeast infection?

The yeast that causes candidiasis is always present in your body, and is completely harmless unless they it happens to multiply out of control. Certain factors can increase the chances of the yeast growing out of control.

The most common cause is the use of antibiotics. Certain bacteria that live in areas preferred by the candida yeast help to keep the population of the latter in check. They do this by using up the resources required by the yeast to survive. When we take antibiotics to kill harmful bacteria, the good bacteria that act as our guardians against candida are not spared either. The yeast grows into the areas vacated by the bacteria and begin to multiply. Other factors that may bring about imbalance of microorganisms include alcohol, steroids and birth control pill usage. A proper pH balance inhibits the growth of these yeasts and helps to keep their population manageable. A change in body pH levels may thus cause an upsurge in the number of yeasts leading to infection.

People with seriously compromised immune systems are also highly susceptible to candida infections. People who come to mind include AIDS, cancer, diabetes and psoriasis patients among others. Among AIDS patients, oral and esophageal candidiasis is very common. In fact, AIDS patients account for 50% of people with this type of candida infection.

Penile candidiasis can result from having sexual intercourse with a partner who has vaginal yeast infection, though the other factors also play a role in its development. It is also not unlikely for a man who has it to pass it on to his female partner during intercourse.

If yeast from superficial infections make it into the bloodstream, causing systemic candida infections which are potentially fatal. Again, this is more likely to happen in people with underdeveloped or compromised immune systems.

If you are obese or pregnant you are at a higher risk of getting a yeast infection. obese people have more folds in their skin and sweat more creating excellent conditions for yeast to grow. Pregnant people usually experience temporary obesity and their immune systems are weakened, which increases the chances of getting infected.

Diagnosis and mitigation

If you suspect that you have a yeast infection, the best practice is to seek help from a competent physician to diagnose it as well as to provide proper medication and treatment. It is possible to misdiagnose yeast infection if you do it yourself or have it done by an incompetent practitioner. For example almost two thirds of women who were self-treating for vaginal candidiasis in 2002 actually had the condition according to Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Diagnosis can be done either through microscope examination or culturing. Microscope examination involves dissolving cells taken from the affected area to leave behind the candida cells after which they can be viewed under a microscope. In culturing, a swab is rubbed on the affected area and dipped into a culture fluid. It is incubated for several days to allow propagation of the causative bacteria or yeast. The characteristics of the resulting microorganism colony is then examined to determine their nature.

There are many varieties of drugs and medication that can be used to treat different types candida infections.

The most common treatment is the use of antimycotics to kill the yeast. Fluconazole applied topically either through suppositories or douches is a great cure for vaginal yeast infection. Anti-fungals can also be administered directly into the vagina using tablets, creams and ointments. They may also be administered orally. It is also applied in treatment of other types of candidiasis with varying dosages. If you are pregnant, local triazole and imidazole application is the best way to go since these anti-fungal drugs pose little risk of transfer to the baby unlike other drugs.

For oral yeast infection, the doctor may give you anti-fungal medication which is swished in the mouth and swallowed. An anti-fungal lozenge which dissolves in your mouth may also be used.

For skin infection, you may receive anti-fungal cream or powder to apply topically. Alternatively, the doctor may prescribe anti-fungal pills.

In case of severe infection especially when it enters the blood stream you might need to take anti-fungal pills orally for a considerable length of time. The doctor will try to identify the organ from which the yeast entered after which therapy with various anti-fungal agents such as polyenes, azoles and echinocandins. This prevents reentry of the yeast into the blood stream once it is clear.

While medical cures are largely effective, the best way is to avoid the infection altogether. There are certain health precautions you can take to prevent candidiasis especially the genital variety. These include:

– Dry yourself thoroughly especially around the genitals after bathing or showering. This denies yeast the moisture it requires to thrive.

– Throw away the underwear you had during the last infection. Alternatively you can sterilize it by boiling.

– After going to the toilet, wipe from front to back to avoid transferring yeast from the rectal area to the genitals.

– Avoid using soap around the vagina as soap kills the bacteria that help to mitigate yeast growth. It would be beneficial to replace your soap with apple cider vinegar which kills yeast and also heals the affected area.

– Avoid very tight and clingy clothing especially underwear as these are likely to create the dump conditions yeast loves.

– Reduce or eliminate sugar and alcohol from your diet as these are the favorite food for yeast.

– If you are on a birth control pill, consider changing the pill you are using or change to other contraceptives altogether.

– Avoid sex with partners who are infected.

– Reduce your reliance on antibiotics since they kill bacteria that are useful in checking yeast multiplication.

– Increase your intake of live yoghurt and other fermented dairy products since these reintroduce bacteria to your gut.

Some practitioners advocate for various alternative medications that include dietary supplements. The efficacy of these is highly questioned by various medical authorities including the FTC and National Institute of Health in the US. Garlic has been cited as an effective cure for this kind of infection due to its anti-fungal properties. You can enjoy these benefits either by eating it raw or applying garlic paste on to the affected area.


Source by Dominic Maina

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