Yeast infection is a type of fungal infection caused by a Candida fungus, generally, Candida albicans.
The most common yeast infection is the vaginal yeast infection, medically known as vulvovaginal candidiasis or vulvovaginitis. It is an inflammation that occurs in women when there is excessive growth of this yeast in the vagina. Almost 75 percent of women suffer from this infection at some point in their life.
Normal amounts of candida live in the mouth, stomach, and vagina, and do not cause infections. Candidiasis occurs when there is an overgrowth of candida.
Only when this number multiply rapidly it results in an infection due to its overgrowth and causes itching, burning sensation, feeling of soreness and pain.
Oral candidiasis is another type of yeast infection. Commonly called thrush, this infection occurs as thick white and lacy looking patches on the tongue or palate. They look like curdled milk which does not wipe off. This can be painful and children stop eating and drinking, so a physician needs to be consulted.
Infants can develop yeast infection as diaper rashes.
In very rare cases the elderly can develop an infection in their dentures or folds of loose skin under breasts or abdomen.
Vaginitis may occur after a urinary tract infection, for which a course of antibiotics is prescribed, which in turn destroys the protective bacteria in the vagina. As a result, yeast thrives multifold and causes irritation to the walls of the vagina. The Candida infection also takes place when immune suppressive drugs are taken by a patient.
Signs and Symptoms of Vaginitis
Acute itchiness is felt in the vaginal area.
Redness, a burning sensation and swelling of the vaginal walls is felt.
Passing urine becomes painful.
There is pain during intercourse.
There is soreness in the vagina.
A rash may occur on the vagina.
A thick white discharge, cheesy in texture and smell, is common.
Vaginal yeast infection may occur due to the presence of the following conditions that may reduce the immunity of the body -
Stress and not enough sleep
Aftermath of an illness
Taking drugs such as antibiotics, or steroids
Hormonal changes during menstrual cycle
Bad eating habits and too much of sugar consumption
Sometimes taking birth control pills may predispose to such infections too.
The vaginal yeast infection is treated usually with pills or a cream or a suppository inserted in the vagina. Relief is felt in just two days though the course may last a week. It is better to complete the course so that the fungal growth does not recur.
Prevention of Vaginal Infections due to Yeast
Warmth and moisture encourages growth of yeast and thus the infection. Women can prevent yeast infection by:
Avoiding scented baths, sprays, pads and tampons and hot baths
Avoiding wearing tight underwear
Avoiding using synthetic panty hose and wear cotton underwear,
Changing out of swimwear as soon as possible
Maintain local vaginal hygiene by washing with water
If overweight lose weight
Men are not susceptible to this infection, though in rare cases they do get candidiasis. Those who are not circumcised need to take extra care with personal hygiene as they can be harbor this under their foreskin. Men suffering from diabetes or recovering after an illness requiring a course of antibiotics can develop a slight pain and discharge at the head of the penis.
It is always better to consult a physician before taking an over the counter medication for the first time. Yeast infection is easy to cure but it is safer to be sure that you are treating candidiasis and not some other infection with the same symptoms.
Antifungal medications – Either local or by tablets is usually sufficient to treat candidiasis. These come as oral rinses, tablets, vaginal tablets / suppositories and as creams. In case there is associated itching and inflammation creams with a small amount of steroids maybe used.
For vaginal yeast infections there are many over the counter preparations available and include –
a. Creams and suppositories - such as miconazole (Monistat), ticonazole (Vagistat), and clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin).
b. Prescription drugs maybe required in chronic infections like Fluconazole,
c. Life threatening infections may require an intravenous (IV) medication like Amphotericin B.
d. Other drugs - lactobacillus acidophilus, nystatin, ketoconazole, itraconazole, terconazole
Treatment may last from 3 days to 3 weeks.
Home Remedies to Avoid Yeast infections
1. Use a ‘Candida Diet’ to Avoid Yeast Infections
Authors have also recommended using a low sugar diet to avoid yeast infections. The culprit may also be diet with high dairy products like milk and cheese.
If you are prone to repeated yeast infections you could try the "candida diet". This would mean totally avoiding alcohol, sugary food items, no food that is fermented with yeast and avoiding processed foods. Though there are no papers published specifically about this diet, it is generally believed that it helps as it is a healthy diet.
2. Yogurt – Regularly adding yogurt to your diet or even rubbing a little in and around the vaginal passage before shower or when going to bed can help healthy bacteria to grow in the vagina and fight the infections.
3. Multi-vitamin with selenium– for a month or so can help in improvement of body’s immunity.
4. Probiotics with Antibiotics - Talk to your doctor about it.
5. Pomegranate gel if available has shown to be effective in treating oral thrush associated with denture.
6. Diet - Add items like garlic (fungicidal), nuts, whole grains, cinnamon and cloves (antifungal spices) to the diet and these may help in avoiding yeast infections.