What is a Yeast Infection?
Yeast is a fungus normally found on the skin, in your digestive system, and vaginal area. A yeast infection occurs when too much yeast is allowed to grow and is referred to as candidiasis. Yeast infection can affect different parts of the body in different ways.
- When yeast grows in the mouth or throat, white patches appear, and the condition is known as thrush.
- If the thrush spreads to your esophagus it is referred to as candida esophagitis. It can make it hard or painful to swallow.
- Yeast infections in the vagina cause vaginitis.
- When the yeast grows on the skin it causes itching and rashes.
- Yeast infections in your bloodstream can be life-threatening.
The most common treatments are antifungal medicines. For people with compromised immunity treatment can become difficult.
Yeast naturally lives in our skin and body. Infection occurs when the normal balance of yeast in the body becomes thrown off. The causes of this imbalance include:
- Skin damage
- Warm, moist, or humid conditions
- Weakened immune system
- Taking antibiotics. Antibiotics can kill the body’s healthy bacteria that normally keep yeast in balance.
Symptoms vary depending on the location in the body.
- Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection can include itching, burning, or redness in the external area of the vagina and a clumpy white discharge.
- Symptoms of yeast infections in the mouth include white patches on the inside of the cheeks and tongue, and redness or soreness.
- Symptoms of yeast infection in the esophagus include difficulty swallowing.
- Symptoms of the infection in the nail beds include swelling, pain, pus, or nails that separate from the nail bed.
- Symptoms of the infection in the skin folds or navel include rashes, pimples, itching and burning, and patches that ooze clear fluid.
- Symptoms of the infection in the penis include redness, scaling, and painful rashes on the underside of the penis.
Your doctor diagnoses yeast infections by reviewing your symptoms and medical history and by performing a thorough physical examination. To confirm the diagnosis your doctor may take a sample of your skin or nail for analysis.
Your doctor may treat yeast infections with oral medications, ointments, and creams or suppositories. For infections in the mouth, you may be prescribed medicated mouthwash or lozenges that dissolve in the mouth. Treatment depends upon age, symptoms, general health, and severity of the condition.
You can prevent yeast infection by:
- Using antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor might also prescribe probiotic supplements to rebuild beneficial bacteria in the body.
- Eat a nutritious diet, get enough sleep and manage stress.
- Keep your skin clean and dry.
- Practice safe sex and avoid sex until the infection is cleared up.