We have a two part post on YEAST INFECTIONS because they are so common in these modern times and they are so darned uncomfortable! The itching can be unendurable, or may seem that way. So here are some ideas about what causes them and, more importantly, what to do if you get one of the damn things.
What Is A Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection is the medical term given to the overgrowth of fungal organisms and their affects in/on the body. This is also known as candidasis (pronounced: can-dih-DIE-uh-sis), usually caused by a species of fungus called Candida Albicans. Yeast infections basically occur in certain areas of the body including warm, moist parts like the mouth and other moist parts of the skin. When they occur in the vagina, it is called vulvovaginal candidiasis, and this is when the ‘good’ or the ‘healthy’ bacteria vagina flora has been killed off.
The overgrowth of Candida can be triggered in so many ways. It could be as a result of stress, pregnancy or illness. Basically anything or condition that alters the immune system or the body hormone can lead to the overgrowth of Candida Albicans. For instance, diabetic people are more susceptible to yeast infections due to the high sugar content of their blood. Also certain medicines like birth control pills, steroids and antibiotics, such as those normally taken for strep throat, contain chemicals that can kill the good bacteria in the body and thus step off the abnormal growth and multiplication of Candida.
Girls normally undergo hormonal changes right before their menstrual cycle and this is when yeast infections tend to show up more. Additionally, using clothing (especially underwear) that is too tight to the moist parts of the body can make yeast infections most likely. Using scented sanitary products, pads or any other clothing containing any form of chemical can upset the healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina and thus lead to overgrowth of Candida.
Yeast infection is not peculiar to any gender. It is a common infection that can happen to both boys and girls. However, unlike girls, boys don’t get vaginal yeast infection, but they can get an infection of the head of the penis also caused by the same species of fungus, Candida Albicans, that causes yeast infection in girls. And like girls, boys who are diabetic or who are on antibiotics are more prone to yeast overgrowth. Also, boys that are not circumcised and who keep warm, moist folds of the foreskin maintain the perfect environment for yeast to thrive.
Yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted infection. It is seen as a common infection (caused by organisms already residing in the body) and thus not considered an STD. It is estimated that three out of every four women will have a yeast infection in their lifetime with many of these women having recurring infections. However, there are also chances that yeast infection can be spread through vaginal intercourse among partners who have unprotected sex, but the risk is low. If you have a partner who is having symptoms, it is advised that the person seek treatment and Trichomoniasisunprotected sex stopped until the symptoms disappear.
While yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted infection, recurring infections can sometimes be a sign of an STD or any other unhealthy condition that may require a serious and different treatment like bacterial infection. Hence if you or your partner frequently experiences some of the symptoms of yeast overgrowth, then it is a good idea to get tested to rule out STDs.
Causes of Yeast Infections
A good knowledge of the causes of yeast infection will help you to prevent yeast overgrowth from taking over your body and possibly save you the time, money, and the stress of bombarding your body with drugs.
The most common type of yeast infection is the vaginal yeast infection caused by the overgrowth of Candida albicans which are normally present in relative small numbers in your crotch. What you suffer as yeast infection or Candidiasis is as a result of the rapid growth and multiplication of this specie of fungus. However, several environmental disruptions favor this rapid growth of yeast which include increased PH, more heat and moisture absorption and retention, allergic reactions to foreign bodies, high sugar levels, hormonal changes and rapid reduction in the number of good or healthy bacteria in relation to the number of Candida albicans. The good bacteria normally subdue and control the growth of Candida albicans.
These environmental disruptions are often triggered by the following factors:
Antibiotics are one of the leading causes of yeast information owing to the fact that most people use antibiotics to treat other problems. This is because at a certain percentage, the antibiotics taken to kill unwanted bacteria in the body can also kill the good bacteria thereby leading to bacteria imbalance in the crotch and thus upsetting the vaginal ecosystem. Antibacterial deodorant soap can also have the same effect. Some people may get yeast infection only when they have consumed a certain percentage of antibiotics, while for others, it just happens at any dose despite the quantity.
Clothing materials that are too tight and trap heat and moisture often create the perfect environment for yeast to thrive in. Also, non-cotton, tight and dirty clothing materials are also places in which yeast can accumulate in. Sleeping with one underpant for days without changing especially during and after yeast infection can either worsen the situation or lead to recurring infection. Instances like this also include using the same underpants after exercises or other activities that made you sweat.
Most chemicals upset the bacterial balance in the crotch which triggers yeast overgrowth; chemicals like inks, dyes, perfumes and even soaps which may not only encourage yeast infection but also damage the mucus membranes. Do you use scented toilet paper, sanitary pads, deodorant sprays, chemical ridden laundry detergents or fabric softeners? These can also create enabling environment for yeast overgrowth.
Several of the condoms in the market today contain nonoxynol-9 in the lubricant. This is a spermicidal chemical which is added to the lubricant in most condoms to help enforce safe sex between active partners. However, many studies have shown that nonoxynol-9 can often lead to bacteria imbalance by killing the good bacteria in the crotch as it fights the bad ones like HIV. Additionally, some people are naturally allergic to latex and using one may mostly aggravate their yeast infection or increase their chances of getting infected.
Certain food substances can indirectly lead to some changes in the hormonal ecosystem in the body. For instance, eating foods that are high in sugar will lead to increase in the volume of sugar in the blood which will encourage yeast growth… Candida albicans, the fungus that causes yeast infection feeds on sugar. Too much intake of alcohol can also lead to the same effect. If you have diabetes, chances are your body will be taken over by yeast overgrowth if you take foods and drinks with high volume of sugar.
Hormonal changes can also trigger yeast infection. This could be as a result of some alteration in the natural hormone in the body or due to an artificial hormone that is introduced. This is often the case with pregnant women who often have yeast infection. If you are on some contraceptive pills which fluctuates the female hormone, then you may be prone to yeast infection. Also, the vaginal ecosystem undergoes certain hormonal changes just before menstrual cycle and this explains why most girls have yeast infection before they see their period.
If there is an injury to the vulvar or vaginal membrane, then it could lead to yeast infection if not properly tended to. Most often, these injuries result from exerting much friction against the crotch without enough lubrication, like having sexual intercourse where the female partner is barely wet. If you are adding artificial lubricants, it is advisable you are smart with your choices; oil-based lubricants like Vaseline can break down latex and non-oily hand-creams may contain dyes, scents or other chemicals that may alter the vaginal ecosystem.
Even when yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, it is still unsafe to have unprotected sex when both or any of the partners are seeing symptoms of yeast overgrowth. This is because doing so might lead to infection (of the uninfected partner) or further irritation of the infected part (in the infected partner). This could either be between heterosexuals, homosexuals or lesbians. In the case of heterosexuals, a girl can infect her male partner who may have no noticeable symptoms. And in this case, she would get re-infected after treating herself each time by her male lover. Let us also take note of toys… if you used your toy when you were infected or you or another person used it on any other infected person, it is likely that the next person to use that toy will get infected.
Weakened immune system
An immune system can be weakened by persistent illnesses or other infections like HIV or Lyme disease. People suffering from these kinds of infections are more prone to yeast infection. These may not be limited to vaginal yeast infection or yeast infection at the head of the penis (in the case of boys), it also includes a yeast infection of the throat commonly called “thrush” or “esophageal yeast infections.”
Sitting all day
Common among those in wheelchairs, sitting all day (with some amount of movement and inadequate care to the crotch) can create a perfect environment for yeast to thrive. This is because it keeps the crotch warm, dark and moist which would in-turn lead to imbalance in the vaginal ecosystem… thereby encouraging the growth of Candida albicans.
Red Flags That Indicate A Yeast Infection
There are several signs and symptoms that signal yeast overgrowth. Ideally these signs and symptoms vary depending on the area of infection in the body.
At the genitals (vagina and penis)
The signs and symptoms of vaginal yeast infection are a white thick discharge that takes the appearance of a cottage cheese. It also causes itching and irritation of the vagina and the surrounding tissues with pain during sexual intercourse and burn during urination. On the other hand, infection of the male genital organ is signaled by itching and burning of the penis, including the presence of rashes on the skin of the penis. However, most yeast infection at the head of the penis comes with no obvious symptoms.
Oral yeast infection
On other parts of the body like the mouth and the skin, the signs and symptoms of candidiasis can take different ways. Oral cadidiasis or thrush (formerly known as moniliasis) triggers the formation of thick, white lacy patches on the top of the red base on the tongue, palate or another place inside the mouth. This could look like milk curds and may appear very easy to wipe but if they are removed with a blade, the underlying tissue may bleed. Sometimes, yeast infection can also turn the tongue red without the milk-like coating. Generally, oral candidiasis or thrush makes it difficult to eat and can be really painful when the mouth is dehydrated.
Other parts of the body
Yeast infections on the skin leads to the formation of rashes thatTrichomoniasis cause itching and pain. Naturally, candidal organisms live on the skin but can overgrow at the eventual breakdown of the outer layers. This is common on warm and moist areas like the diaper regions and skin folds. If you see a red flat rash with sharp scalloped edges then it is likely a yeast infection on the skin. You may also notice similar rash nearby called “satellite lesions.”
People with weakened immune system who have yeast infections can show several signs due to abnormalities in their internal organs including pain and dysfunction of the organs. People suffering from AIDS, chemotherapy or other conditions may contract yeast infection called esophagitis in their upper gastrointestinal (GI) systems. This infection is very similar to thrush but extends down the mouth and esophagus to the stomach. People suffering from this infection generally find it very painful to swallow anything, including liquids, they have high risk of becoming dehydrated and they may suffer pain in the area of sternum (breast bone), pain in the upper abdomen and nausea and vomiting. If the infection spreads into the intestines, it may render the system incapable of fully absorbing food. Additionally, the infection can cause mental or behavioral complications if it spreads to the brain and or make the person sick with or without fever if it finds its way into the blood stream.
There are also other health complications which may be attributed to yeast infection. These include sexual dysfunction, vaginal odor, premature aging, leaky gut syndrome, urinary disorders, depression or mood swings, chronic rashes, tiredness or fatigue, digestive pain, short attention span, constant migraines, hip pain, impotence, menstrual pain, shortness of breath, food allergies, learning and memory problems, eczema, brain fog, yeast infections in the toe or in fingernails.
Is It A Yeast Infection – Or Something Else?
Identifying similar infections
There are also other infections and diseases that may show most of the signs and symptoms mentioned above. If you have never had a yeast infection before and are witnessing any of the signs and symptoms listed above, it is necessary that you don’t mistake it for yeast infection when you are suffering from another form of infection or sickness. To be sure, here is how you can recognize other infections:
Bacteria vaginosis is the overgrowth of one of the normal bacterial vaginal flora up to the point that it becomes pathogenic and thus develops into an infection with symptoms and health complications. Common bacteria species that causes this include Gardnerella and Bacteroides. Bacterial vaginosis feel a lot like yeast infection. This is because it sometimes can make the vulva area itchy, burning and painful. But unlike yeast infection the discharge can be yellow, grey and greenish and may smell like fish or rotten food.
Urinary tract infections
Abbreviated as UTIs, urinary tract infections occur when the bacteria in the body infects the urethra rather than the vagina. If the infection spreads through the bladder to the kidney it can cause serious kidney damage. signs and symptoms of urinary tract infections include pain or burning when urinating, presence of blood or mucus in urine, frequent urge to urinate, pain or pressure in the back lower abdomen and, or fever or chills.
Trichomoniasis is a major infection caused by a parasite that can infect both the vagina and the urinary tract. It is primarily a sexually transmitted disease that comes with itchy or painful crotch. If you are suffering from this infection, you might feel hurt when urinating, when having sexual intercourse and occasional pain in the lower abdomen.
Generally, if you are experiencing any sign or symptom that seems like you have yeast infection, be sure to check properly before you go ahead treating yourself for yeast infection you do not have. Most people may witness minor vaginal problems which may be related to menstrual cycles, sex, other infections, birth control methods, aging, medicines or changes after pregnancy which is common among most women.
For instance, other infections that may lead to a change in the normal vaginal discharge include sexually transmitted infections (STD) like chlamydia, gonorrhrea or genital herpes. Others include inflammation of the cervix called cervicitis, atrophic vaginitis, and foreign object in the vagina, like a tampon left for too long and excessive secretions which may be considered normal ordinarily.
Other causes of itching despite yeast infection (though some of these might also lead to yeast infection) include:
• contact dermatitis, which is irritation of the skin caused by chemicals, soap or detergent
• Allergic reactions to foreign bodies like latex which is a common substance used in condoms
• Sexually transmitted infections like genital herpes, genital warts called human papillomavirus or HPV or trichomoniasis.
• Atrophic vaginitis which is commonly found among postmenopausal women
• Other skin conditions like psoriasis
Additionally somebody with a compromised immune system like a person suffering from human immunodeficiency virus can also experience itching of the crotch.
Part 2 of our series on yeast infections …