Get The Facts About Yeast Infections

Yeast infections occur when the fungi that lives regularly within our body starts to multiply and grow out of control. Usually not serious in nature, they present with often very uncomfortable and painful symptoms, often reoccurring very frequently within many sufferers. The good news is that they can be treated. Although not exclusively limited to women, they are more common within the female population, with most, at some point in their life, experiencing a vaginal yeast infection. However, both men and children can also be affected and susceptibility appears to be related to a range of causes from immune system impairment to certain diseases increasing the risk, antibiotics or simply being from the wrong gene pool. Whatever the cause, without doubt the symptoms that yeast infections bring can be challenging to say the least.

What is a Yeast Infection?

Approximately 75-80% percent of all women are likely to have at least one yeast infection during their lifetime. And up to 45% have two or more episodes. But it is not uncommon in men or children as well. Yeast is scientifically referred to as Candida albicans, and it is a naturally-occurring bacterium in the digestive tract and reproductive system of humans. In certain instances, the yeast bacteria grow out of control and lead to infection. This can occur in the vaginal or groin area, as well as other parts of the body.

What are the symptoms of a Vaginal Yeast Infections?

Symptoms vary between individuals and each may display different levels of severity during a yeast infection, which also may differ in length and frequency. There are many symptoms of vaginal yeast infections, the majority of which can be confused with other ailments. As such, it is essential that people suffering from these symptoms see a physician for a confirmed diagnosis before beginning self-treatment, particularly if this is the first experience with yeast infection symptoms. The symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are as follows:

  • Vaginal itching, pain or burning
  • Burning with urination
  • Thick, white vaginal discharge that may resemble cottage cheese
  • Skin irritation in the vaginal region
  • Crusting or hardening of the vaginal region
  • Discomfort when having sexual intercourse

What Causes Yeast Infections?

Yeast infections can be caused by a variety of factors. One of the main triggers of infections is the use of antibiotics. This is because antibiotics destroy healthy bacteria as well as harmful bacteria. The healthy bacteria are meant to control the growth of yeast, but if the healthy bacteria are killed, there is nothing to stop the overgrowth of yeast.

Steroids, like prednisone, can also be responsible for causing yeast infections. This is because hormones such as progesterone and estrogen stimulate the production of sugar in the cells, which then leads to the growth of candida or yeast. People who have suppressed immune systems are more likely to experience yeast infections because there are fewer healthy bacteria to fight the overgrowth of yeast. People who have AIDS or other autoimmune system diseases and people who are undergoing treatment for cancer also have an increased risk of yeast infections.

When Should I See a Doctor?

There are several circumstances which would warrant a visit to your doctor, which include the following:

  • This is your first experience with yeast infection symptoms
  • You are pregnant
  • You have been diagnosed with diabetes
  • You are under the age of 12
  • You are dealing with a sexually transmitted disease
  • You have had three or more infections in the past 6 months
  • You have attempted to self-treat with no improvement in symptoms after a full course of treatment
  • Your yeast infection recurs within 60 days

Why are Yeast Infections More Common in Pregnant Women?

Women in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy are more susceptible to yeast infections because of the increase in hormone fluctuations. This makes the environment in the vagina more conducive to the growth of yeast. Pregnant women also produce more sugar, which is what yeast feeds upon, which then leads it to grow unchecked.

It is necessary to treat a yeast infection in a pregnant woman since it can be transferred to the baby when it is born. A yeast infection in an infant usually presents itself as oral thrush (white patches on the tongue and throat) or as a skin rash.

How Can Yeast Infections Be Prevented?

In most cases, preventing a yeast infection is better than trying to cure one. The following minor lifestyle changes can help keep you from getting yeast infections:

  • Wear only cotton underwear. Synthetic materials and tight clothing make the vaginal area damp, which is the preferred environment for the growth of yeast. Make sure your clothes allow room for the air to move throughout your vaginal area.
  • Do not douche. Douching washes away all bacteria, including the healthy bacteria that keep the yeast in check.
  • Do not use bubble baths or other harsh cleansers. This can cause irritation in the vaginal region that will allow yeast to grow.
  • Some feminine hygiene products can irritate the vaginal region which can allow yeast to grow out of control.
  • Some contraceptives or spermicides can trigger yeast infections.
  • Keep the use of antibiotics to a minimum because they destroy both the healthy and the harmful bacteria in the body. This will allow yeast to grow unchecked.
  • Damage to the vaginal region can contribute to the overgrowth of yeast
  • Eat foods that are known to promote a healthy environment that keeps yeast in control. Foods like garlic, cranberry juice, and yogurt that contains probiotics can help.

Can Men Get Yeast Infections?

While yeast infections are more common in women than in men, males can get them. The symptoms of a male yeast infection include penile itching, penile redness or swelling, pain when urinating, the presence of a white, cheesy substance around the tip of the penis or in the folds of the foreskin, and difficulty with retraction of the foreskin over the tip of the penis. It is recommended that men who believe they are suffering from a yeast infection seek immediate medical treatment to rule out any other sexually transmitted disease.


References:

1 - Mayo Clinic

2 - WebMD

3 - NHS