What is Yeast?
Yeast may sound like a very innocent mystery ingredient that makes your bread fluffy, but it is a fungus in reality.
There are different types of fungi. They range from the delicious mushrooms that we eat to penicillin, the life-saving medicine, to finally infection-causing such as vaginal candidiasis, commonly known as a yeast infection, which is what we’ll be discussing today.
What Organism Causes Yeast Infections?
Yeast infections specifically vaginal yeast infection is caused by a type of fungus/ yeast called Candida Albicans.
It is a very interesting fungus that acts very peculiarly. It is classified as a Dimorphic Fungus, which translates into two forms. This feature is also known as dimorphism.
One form known as the mold form occurs when the temperature is ambient, that is 25 degrees. This form is usually present in and around your house, especially when the temperature feels comfortable and cozy.
The other form is known as yeast form, which is the form it takes when it is exposed to body temperature. Vaginal yeast infection symptoms are usually presented in this form.
This is also one of the most common infections that occur in sexually active individuals, specifically women.
At least 75 percent of women experience a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their lifetime.
What Causes Most Yeast Infections?
Yeast infections can be caused because of multiple reasons, such as;
1. Bad hygiene practices:
In both men and women, when there is no importance to maintaining the hygiene of genitals, yeast infections become regular guests.
People who do not wash their underwear frequently do not wash their genitals with mild soap and water at least twice a day, and women who do not maintain period hygiene are most affected by this infection.
2. Loss of the ideal Vaginal pH:
Since vaginal yeast infection occurs most commonly in women; it is important to know that the vagina maintains an acidic pH of around 3.8 to 4.5
When this pH is disturbed, it leads to a higher risk of vaginal yeast infection.
3. Unprotected Intercourse:
Yeast infection in men commonly occurs as a sexually transmitted infection. It is because women are more prone to yeast infections.
Upon unprotected sex, specifically in uncircumcised men, this is common.
4. Immunocompromised states:
Health conditions that lead to a weak immune system are very important risk factors for yeast infection.
Pathological conditions such as HIV or AIDS cause yeast infections in both sexes, while physiological conditions such as pregnancy cause an immunocompromised state, leading to yeast infections in pregnant women.
5. Long term antibiotic therapy:
Taking antibiotics, specifically broad-spectrum antibiotics, causes yeast infections.
It is because broad-spectrum antibiotics reduce natural immunity in the body.
6. Uncontrolled diabetes mellitus:
Diabetes mellitus is a very important disease that alters normal body physiology.
Especially when left uncontrolled, the hyperglycemia states of the body promote infections and poor wound healing; this is one of the leading risk factors in getting vaginal yeast infections.
This may also promote the risk of recurrent infections.
7. Hormonal imbalances:
Hormonal imbalances caused due to excessive use of birth control pills/the morning-after drugs, or hormone therapy, or the use of hormonal contraceptives improperly lead to an increase in the risk of vaginal infection.
It occurs because hormones like estrogen and progesterone are steroids. They reduce immunity in abnormal amounts.
A weakened immune system leads to infections.
What are the Different Types of Yeast Infections?
There are multiple infections caused by yeast, specifically the yeast Candida Albicans. They are majorly classified as:
1. Infection of the mucosal layer of the body:
This class includes vulvovaginitis or vaginal infection in women, balanoposthitis in men, and oral candidiasis or oral thrush in both sexes.
2. Infection of the skin:
This class includes infections of nails, hair follicles, and diaper candidiasis commonly observed in babies.
3. Invasive infections:
This class includes infection of the body’s major systems such as uterine tract infections, lung or pulmonary infection of yeast, and meningitis.
4. Allergic infections:
This class includes infections caused not by yeast as an organism but because of allergic reactions when a person with low immunity comes into contact with yeast, such as eczema.
What are the Most Common Early Vaginal Yeast Infection Symptoms?
Among yeast infections, vaginal yeast infections being the most widespread among women need more awareness.
Hence we have based this article on the same to help you identify some very common and easily identifiable yeast infection symptoms.
The yeast infection symptoms may also vary slightly among men, so that we will discuss these symptoms separately.
So the common early vaginal yeast infection symptoms in women may be classified into two types: common signs and other less common symptoms.
A. Common Symptoms of vaginal yeast infections: Most women present with these symptoms.
1. Pruritis or vaginal itching:
It is caused due to irritated skin due to yeast secretions.
Vulvovaginal candidiasis, caused by the vulva and the vagina infection, presents with severe itching and discomfort. It is one of the most common and important yeast infection symptoms.
2. Burning sensation when urinating:
As with any infection of the pelvic floor, it is very common for women, especially to present with symptoms of burning sensation or burning urination.
It is easily the most easily identifiable vaginal yeast infection symptom.
Women present with a curdy white vaginal discharge. The color may vary to a light yellow discharge. It may also be described to have a cottage cheese appearance.
The vaginal discharge may be foul-smelling in some women, while others may present with non-foul-smelling vaginal discharge; this variation may be due to other opportunistic infections.
This is considered to be one of the most classic yeast infection symptoms in women.
4. Redness and swelling in the vulva:
The vulva is a very sensitive and highly vascularized part of the pelvic floor. The irritation caused by pruritis due to the yeast infection causes redness and discomfort in the vulva.
5. Vaginal pain and soreness:
Due to the inflammatory reaction caused by the yeast infection, the vagina becomes inflamed, causing pain and soreness.
This causes severe discomfort in performing basic day-to-day activities such as walking. It is fairly common and may be considered an important vaginal yeast infection symptom.
6. Pain during intercourse:
One of the key features of any inflammatory condition of the pelvic floor, especially in women, is pain during intercourse in otherwise normal conditions.
Exceptions to this may include cases of vaginismus or spasm of the vagina.
But in most sexually active women, that don’t experience pain, this is considered an important identification of vaginal yeast infection symptoms.
7. Vaginal rash:
An unusual rash or sore, sudden in origin that may be painful or painless, is important in identifying vaginal yeast infection symptoms.
B. Uncommon Symptoms of vaginal yeast infection: A lesser population of women present with these symptoms.
Fever is not considered one of the common yeast infection symptoms.
Some people that have weakened immune systems may present with fever as a common vaginal yeast infection symptom.
Tiredness or fatigue is not one of the common vaginal yeast infection symptoms.
This may occur in weak individuals or those with low immunity.
3. Abdominal pain:
A yeast infection does not translate into abdominal pain commonly.
This may occur due to long-standing untreated infection.
Yeast Infection Symptoms in Men (Known as Balanoposthitis):
1. Rashes or pus-filled lesions
Small, clumpy, white, pus-filled lesions are the most common yeast infection symptoms in men. These rashes grow around the penis and cause pain.
2. Severe itch or pruritis:
Men may present with inflammation and severe itching sensation on the penis, scrotum, and skin folds of the groin.
The skin may turn flaky and white (not to be confused with the dryness of the skin)
This is one of the most common yeast infection symptoms.
3. Inflammation of the foreskin with discharge:
Men may also produce white, curry, or cottage cheese-like discharge n consistency, which presents with inflamed foreskin.
This is one of the more common yeast infection symptoms in men.
4. Pain during intercourse and burning urination:
This is one of the most common yeast infection symptoms presented by both men and women.
5. Diarrhea or associated gut symptoms:
Loose stools, which may progress to diarrhea, are less common yeast infection symptoms in men.
Don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned earlier.
What are the Complications of Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection is complicated if it occurs over four times a year and lasts more than three weeks in duration.
It occurs only when the infected person is immunocompromised (such as HIV infection, Uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, steroid therapy, or immunosuppressive drug therapy) as mentioned above in the causes.
The most dangerous complication of yeast infection is:
This is of the class, as mentioned earlier, of invasive infections. It essentially means the yeast invades various systems in the body leading to dysfunction, and in severe cases, it may be fatal.
Invasive candidiasis affects the lungs, liver, brain, kidneys, blood vessels, bones, eyes, and spleen.
This complication is extremely rare, and an average yeast infection does not progress to this level.
How is a Yeast Infection Treated?
Your doctor would usually start with a physical examination of the site of infection. This is most commonly a pelvic exam.
After this, you may be requested to provide blood/urine samples, and your doctor may take a swab for culture and sensitivity testing.
It is important to provide your healthcare provider with accurate medical history. This helps assess accurately the underlying reason that is causing symptoms.
Once your culture and sensitivity testing come back with positive fungal culture for candida fungus, then a vaginal yeast infection is diagnosed.
Your doctor will prescribe a combination of oral medications and antifungal creams to treat candida infection.
You may also be advised to use tea tree oil to reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms temporarily.
Oral medications are usually a combination of multiple types of antifungal medication to avoid any systemic complications of the infection.
The antifungal cream helps with physical lesions such as sores or rashes.
Your doctor may also provide medical advice to maintain personal and genital hygiene for preventing the risk of recurrent yeast infections.
Can I use home remedies to treat vaginal yeast infections since yeast infections are common?
NO. Please get in touch with your doctor or health care provider for treatment.
Over the counter, antifungal medicine is NOT effective or safe for you. Many women develop further vaginal infections, as creams may induce a higher risk of recurring yeast infections.
It is also important to note other severe infections similar to vaginal candidiasis, such as bacterial vaginosis.
Only a trained physician will identify the same, so please reach out to a medical professional to control such infectious diseases.
How Can I Prevent Yeast Infections?
You can prevent yeast infections by;
1. Maintaining good hygiene.
Yeast infection cannot thrive on healthy tissue.
For men: Please ensure you use only clean undergarments, wash your genitals with warm water.
For women: Never use bleach or such harsh chemicals on your vaginal area. Never use scented soaps and other over-the-counter “vaginal washes” to help prevent vaginal yeast infections.
Also, avoid extremely tight-fitting clothing for longer hours that do not allow proper movement or ventilation.
2. Avoid unprotected sex:
When you’re affected by a sexually transmitted infection, your chances of contracting a yeast infection increase multifold. Always use a condom.
3. Maintain gut health:
Your gut is home to a diverse flora of healthy bacteria that help you digest certain food and provide your body with otherwise impossible to produce nutrients.
Maintain this flora by consuming probiotic foods and drinks such as kombucha and Yakult.
This flora helps prevent the complications of yeast infections.
4. Protect your immune system:
Your immune system is your first line of defense. Ensure you eat healthily and maintain good hygiene to help your body fight infections better.
5. Use boric acid in your shoes and damp, clammy corners of your house to prevent the development of fungal spores in your home. This helps avoid fungal infections.
So these were the most common early yeast symptoms, their associated management, and treatment.
Kindly reach out to a medical professional if you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms of a yeast infection. Do not resort to home remedies.
I hope you found this article to be useful.
Stay safe. Stay healthy.