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Home » Yeast Infections

Board-Certified Physicians at Your Fingertips: Ongo Care’s Telemedicine Services

Overview

Overview

Symptoms

Symptoms

Causes

Causes

Diagnosis

Diagnosis

Treatment

Treatment

Self-care

Prevention

Overview

Yeast infections, also known as candidiasis, are common fungal infections caused by Candida species, predominantly Candida albicans. These infections can affect various parts of the body, with the most common types being vaginal yeast infections, oral thrush, and skin infections.

Yeast infections are fungal infections caused by an overgrowth of Candida yeast. Candida is a type of yeast that naturally resides in small quantities in the body, particularly in the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and vaginal area. However, certain factors can disrupt the balance of microorganisms, leading to excessive proliferation of Candida and causing infections.
Yeast infections are medically known by several names, depending on the affected body part. Some common names include:

A. Vaginal Yeast Infections: Vulvovaginal candidiasis or VVC
B. Oral Yeast Infections: Oral thrush or oropharyngeal candidiasis
C. Skin Yeast Infections: Cutaneous candidiasis

Yeast infections are one of the most common types of fungal infections in the United States. They can affect both men and women, but the prevalence is higher in females.

Various Phases of Yeast Infections:

Yeast infections can manifest in different phases, depending on the affected area and the severity of the infection.

A. Vaginal Yeast Infection Phases:

  • I. Initial Onset: Symptoms may include itching, burning sensation, and vaginal discharge resembling cottage cheese.
  • II. Chronic Recurrence: Some individuals may experience recurring yeast infections, often triggered by certain factors such as hormonal changes, antibiotic use, or a weakened immune system.

B. Oral Yeast Infection (Oral Thrush) Phases:

  • I. White Patches: The infection begins with the appearance of white, creamy lesions on the tongue, inner cheeks, or throat.
  • II. Discomfort and Pain: The affected areas can become sensitive and painful, making eating and swallowing difficult.

C. Skin Yeast Infection Phases:

  • I. Rash Formation: A red, itchy rash with defined borders appears in areas with skin folds and high moisture, such as the armpits, groin, and beneath the breasts.
  • II. Scaling and Cracking: In severe cases, the affected skin may develop scales and cracks, leading to discomfort.
what is Yeast infections

Symptoms

Yeast infections can manifest differently depending on the affected area of the body. Here are the common symptoms associated with yeast infections in various parts of the body:

Vaginal Yeast Infections (Vulvovaginal Candidiasis):

  • Itching and irritation in the vaginal area.
  • Swelling and redness of the vulva (the outer part of the vagina).
  • Burning sensation, especially during urination or intercourse.
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge that is typically thick, white, and resembles cottage cheese.
  • Soreness and pain in the vaginal area.

Oral Yeast Infections (Oral Thrush or Oropharyngeal Candidiasis):

  • Redness or soreness in the affected areas.
  • Difficulty in swallowing or a feeling of food being stuck in the throat.
  • Loss of taste or altered taste sensation.

Skin Yeast Infections (Cutaneous Candidiasis):

  • Red, itchy rash with well-defined edges.
  • Small pustules or blisters around the edges of the rash.
  • Scaling or peeling of the skin in and around the affected area.
  • Pain or discomfort in severe cases.

Causes

Under normal circumstances, the presence of Candida is balanced by other microorganisms, like bacteria, and the body’s immune system, preventing it from causing an infection. However, certain factors can disrupt this balance, leading to an excessive growth of Candida and causing yeast infections. The main causes of yeast infections include:

  • Antibiotics: One of the most common triggers for yeast infections is the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics are medications designed to kill harmful bacteria, but they can also disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in the body. When beneficial bacteria are reduced, Candida can multiply and lead to an infection.
  • Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those that occur during pregnancy, menstrual cycles, or hormonal therapies, can create an environment more conducive to yeast overgrowth.
  • Diabetes: People with uncontrolled diabetes are more susceptible to yeast infections. Elevated blood sugar levels provide a favorable environment for Candida to thrive.
  • Poor Personal Hygiene: Lack of proper hygiene, especially in areas with skin folds and high moisture, can create conditions where Candida can grow unchecked.
  • Tight Clothing: Wearing tight-fitting or non-breathable clothing can create a warm, moist environment that promotes yeast growth, particularly in the genital area.
  • Sexual Transmission: While yeast infections are not considered sexually transmitted infections (STIs), it is possible for a sexual partner to pass a yeast infection back and forth during intercourse.
  • Use of Contraceptives: Some contraceptive methods, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) or hormonal birth control pills, may increase the risk of yeast infections in some individuals.
causes of Yeast infections

Diagnosis

Yeast infections can be diagnosed through a combination of clinical evaluation, medical history assessment, and laboratory tests. If you suspect you have a yeast infection or are experiencing symptoms consistent with one, it’s important to seek medical evaluation for an accurate diagnosis. Here’s how yeast infections are typically diagnosed:

  • Medical History and Symptom Assessment:
  • Be prepared to discuss the type of symptoms, their duration, and any factors that may have triggered or worsened them, such as recent antibiotic use or changes in medication. For women, information about menstrual cycles and recent sexual activity may also be relevant.

  • Physical Examination:
  • A physical examination will be conducted to inspect the affected area, such as the vagina, mouth, or skin, for visible signs of a yeast infection. In the case of vaginal yeast infections, a pelvic examination may be performed.

  • Vaginal Wet Mount (for Vaginal Yeast Infections):
  • For suspected vaginal yeast infections, a sample of vaginal discharge may be collected. This sample is then examined under a microscope to check for the presence of Candida yeast cells, as well as other microorganisms that may be causing the symptoms.

  • pH Testing:
  • In the case of vaginal yeast infections, a pH test may be performed to assess the acidity of the vaginal environment. Yeast infections often cause an increase in vaginal pH, which can help differentiate them from other infections.

  • Cultures (in Certain Cases):
  • In some instances, particularly if the infection is severe, recurrent, or not responding to standard treatments, your healthcare provider may take a culture of the affected area. This involves collecting a sample and sending it to a laboratory to grow and identify the specific species of Candida or rule out other types of infections.

  • Oral Examination (for Oral Thrush):
  • For oral yeast infections (oral thrush), your healthcare provider may visually examine your mouth and throat for characteristic white lesions.

Treatment

Treatment for yeast infections typically involves the use of antifungal medications to eliminate the overgrowth of Candida yeast and relieve symptoms. The specific treatment prescribed may vary depending on the location and severity of the infection. Here are the common treatment options for yeast infections:

Vaginal Yeast Infections (Vulvovaginal Candidiasis):

  • Over-the-Counter (OTC) Antifungal Medications: Many vaginal yeast infections can be treated with antifungal creams, ointments, or suppositories available without a prescription. These products often contain active ingredients like clotrimazole, miconazole, or tioconazole.
  • Prescription Antifungal Medications: In cases of more severe or recurrent infections, your healthcare provider may prescribe stronger antifungal medications in the form of creams, ointments, or oral tablets.

Oral Yeast Infections (Oral Thrush or Oropharyngeal Candidiasis):

  • Antifungal Mouthwash or Lozenges: Mild cases of oral thrush can be treated with antifungal mouthwash or lozenges that are available over the counter or by prescription.
  • Prescription Antifungal Medications: In more severe cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe oral antifungal medications, such as fluconazole.

Skin Yeast Infections (Cutaneous Candidiasis):

  • Topical Antifungal Creams: Antifungal creams or ointments containing clotrimazole, miconazole, or other active ingredients can be applied to the affected skin.
  • Prescription Antifungal Medications: In severe or persistent cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe oral antifungal medications to address the infection.

General Considerations for Treatment:

  • Follow the Instructions: It is essential to follow the instructions provided by your healthcare provider or the product label when using antifungal medications. Complete the full course of treatment, even if symptoms improve, to ensure complete eradication of the infection.
  • Personal Hygiene: Practicing good personal hygiene, particularly in the affected area, can help prevent the spread and recurrence of yeast infections.
  • Avoiding Irritants: For vaginal yeast infections, avoid using douches, scented products, and feminine hygiene sprays, as they can disrupt the natural balance and aggravate the infection.
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Self Care

While medical treatment is often necessary for yeast infections, there are some self-care measures you can take to manage and prevent them. Self-care can complement medical treatment and help reduce the frequency of yeast infections. Here are some self-care tips:

Wear Breathable Clothing: Choose loose-fitting, breathable clothing made from natural fibers like cotton. Avoid tight-fitting clothing that can trap moisture and create a favorable environment for yeast growth.
Avoid Irritants: Avoid using scented products, including scented tampons, pads, and feminine hygiene sprays, as they can irritate the genital area and disturb the natural pH balance.
Probiotics: Some studies suggest that probiotics, which contain beneficial bacteria, may help in preventing yeast infections. Incorporate probiotic-rich foods into your diet, such as yogurt with live cultures or fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut.
Limit Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates: Reducing the consumption of sugary foods and refined carbohydrates may help prevent yeast overgrowth. Candida feeds on sugar, so limiting its availability in the body can be beneficial.
Manage Underlying Health Conditions: If you have conditions such as diabetes or a weakened immune system, work with your healthcare provider to manage these conditions effectively. Properly controlling blood sugar levels and boosting immune function can help prevent recurrent yeast infections.
Practice Safe Sex: If you are sexually active, use condoms to reduce the risk of passing yeast infections between partners. Practice good genital hygiene before and after intercourse.
Avoid Prolonged Antibiotic Use: If you need to take antibiotics, discuss with your healthcare provider about ways to minimize their impact on your normal flora and reduce the risk of yeast infections.
Don’t Self-Diagnose or Self-Treat: If you suspect you have a yeast infection, it’s essential to seek medical advice for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Avoid self-diagnosis and over-the-counter treatments without professional guidance.
Monitor Recurrence: Keep track of any recurrent yeast infections and note any potential triggers or patterns. This information can be helpful for your healthcare provider in determining the most effective treatment plan.

Self Care from yeast infection

Prevention

Preventing yeast infections involves adopting certain lifestyle habits and practices to minimize the risk of Candida overgrowth. While it may not be possible to prevent all yeast infections, these preventive measures can significantly reduce their occurrence. Here are some effective ways to prevent yeast infections:

  • Maintain Good Personal Hygiene: Practice regular genital hygiene for both men and women.Wash the genital area with mild soap and water, and avoid using harsh products that can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria and yeast.
  • Wear Breathable Clothing: Opt for loose-fitting, breathable clothing made from natural fibers like cotton. Avoid tight-fitting underwear and clothing that can trap moisture, creating an environment conducive to yeast growth.
  • Limit Moisture: Keep the genital area dry, especially after swimming or exercising. Change out of wet swimsuits or sweaty workout clothes promptly.
  • Avoid Irritants: Refrain from using scented products, such as douches, feminine hygiene sprays, scented tampons, or pads. These products can irritate the genital area and disrupt the natural pH balance.
  • Manage Underlying Health Conditions: If you have conditions like diabetes or a weakened immune system, work with your healthcare provider to manage these conditions effectively. Properly controlling blood sugar levels and boosting immune function can help prevent recurrent yeast infections.
  • Limit Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates: Reduce the consumption of sugary foods and refined carbohydrates, as Candida thrives on sugar. Maintaining a balanced diet can help prevent excessive yeast growth.
  • Be Cautious with Antibiotics: Only use antibiotics when necessary and as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Prolonged or unnecessary antibiotic use can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the body and increase the risk of yeast infections.

When to See a Doctor

While yeast infections are generally common and can often be managed with over-the-counter treatments, there are instances when it’s essential to seek medical attention promptly. If you experience any of the following warning signs or have concerns about your symptoms, it’s best to see a doctor:

  • Severe Symptoms: If your symptoms are severe, causing significant discomfort, or interfering with your daily activities, medical evaluation is necessary for appropriate management.
  • Unusual Discharge: If the vaginal discharge is green, yellow, or grayish in color or has a foul odor, it may not be a yeast infection and requires evaluation by a healthcare provider.
  • New or Unusual Symptoms: If you experience new or unusual symptoms, such as pelvic pain, fever, or chills, it may indicate a more serious infection that needs medical attention.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women experiencing symptoms of a yeast infection should consult their healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment options.
  • Underlying Health Conditions: If you have diabetes, a weakened immune system, or other chronic health conditions, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider to ensure the yeast infection is appropriately managed in the context of your overall health.
  • First-Time Infection: If you’ve never had a yeast infection before and are experiencing symptoms that you suspect may be related, it’s advisable to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
  • Treatment Failure: If you have tried over-the-counter treatments without improvement or if your symptoms persist after completing a prescribed treatment, consult a healthcare provider for further evaluation and alternative treatment options.
  • Multiple Infections at Once: If you suspect you have multiple infections (e.g., both a vaginal and oral yeast infection), it’s important to seek medical advice for proper assessment and treatment.

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