Yeast Infection

Overview

Candidiasis is an infection also known as a yeast infection. This condition is most often caused by candida albicans, though it can be caused by other fungi as well. Yeast infections can occur in many areas of the body including the mouth, throat and esophagus, skin and vagina. Yeast infections of the vagina are known as vulvovaginal candidiasis. Most yeast infections are easily treated with antifungal medicines. Those with a weakened immune system, or with yeast infections caused by a fungus other than candida albicans, can be more difficult to treat.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of yeast infections vary depending upon the part of the body affected. In cases of vaginal yeast infections, patients may experience redness, swelling and itching. This may occur at the vaginal opening or on the labia or vulva. A burning sensation during urination or sexual intercourse is another common symptom. Discharge associated with vaginal yeast infections is thick, white and clumpy. It has been described as having a cottage cheese like appearance. In complicated yeast infections, these symptoms may be amplified causing more extensive redness, swelling and discomfort. Yeast infections that occur more than four times per year, or that occur in association with other conditions such as pregnancy or uncontrolled diabetes, are considered complicated infections. Other complicated cases involve patients with compromised immune systems or cases in which infections are caused by a yeast other than candida albicans. These cases may require more aggressive or extended treatment options.

In order to diagnose a yeast infection, a physician will ask questions about the patient’s medical history and symptoms. If the patient has previously been treated for yeast infections, a history and list of symptoms may be all that is needed to prescribe treatment. If it is the first occurrence of yeast infection or appears to be a complicated case, a pelvic exam and possibly testing of vaginal secretions will be done in order to determine the proper course of treatment.

Causes

The body is generally able to regulate levels of yeast and keep yeast infections from occurring. However, when the body becomes unable to do so – usually the result of infection, illness or medication – yeast can grow in greater numbers, causing infection. Some conditions such as pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes, or a weakened immune system make yeast infections more likely to occur. Lifestyle habits such as tight fitting clothes or pantyhose, the use of douching products or scented soaps in the vaginal area can also upset the balance of bacteria causing yeast infections.  Continue reading for Prevention information . . .

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