What is a yeast infection?
A yeast infection is a problem caused by the overgrowth of a type of fungus called candida. The yeast may infect the vagina, mouth, or other moist areas on the skin.
A yeast infection is also called candidiasis.
What is the cause?
Itâ€™s normal to have some yeast in the rectal and vaginal areas. Yeast causes trouble only when there are too many yeast organisms. Sometimes the yeast grows quickly and if it grows out of control it causes an infection.
Several things may cause an overgrowth of yeast:
- If you are taking antibiotics, the medicine may kill the bacteria that normally keep yeast levels under control.
- Taking steroid medicine can affect your immune system, making it less able to control yeast levels.
- Drugs that lower the body’s defenses against infection, such as drugs used to treat AIDS, can allow the yeast to grow and spread.
- Conditions that cause hormonal changes, such as having your period, pregnancy, or taking birth control pills, may cause yeast to grow.
Yeast infections may be more likely if you have diabetes, especially when the blood sugar level is too high.
A yeast infection is usually not spread by sex.
What are the symptoms?
You may not have any symptoms. In women symptoms may include:
- A discharge from the vagina that is thick and white and looks like paste or cottage cheese
- Itching in and around the vagina
- Redness and swelling in and around the vagina
- A burning feeling when you urinate
- Pain at the opening of the vagina when you have sex
In men, the yeast can cause swelling and redness of the penis and foreskin. Yeast infections of the penis are more common when the penis is uncircumcised.
If your mouth is infected, the lining of the mouth may be red and sore. You may have white patches in your mouth and on your tongue. This is called thrush.
Yeast infection of the skin causes an itchy red rash that may have small red bumps around the red area. Itâ€™s most common in areas that stay warm and moist, like under your breasts, in your groin, or in any area where there are skin folds. Yeast can also cause infections of your nails, cuticles, and at the corner of your mouth.
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. The diagnosis may be clear from your symptoms and your exam. Your provider may collect samples of cells from places where you are having symptoms, such as the mouth, vagina, or skin, to check for yeast.
How is it treated?
Medicines are used to treat yeast infections. The kind of medicine depends on where you have the infection, and how severe the infection is.
- For an infection in the vagina, suppositories or creams are used in and around the vagina. You can buy these medicines without a prescription. Check with your healthcare provider before using these medicines if:
- You have never had a yeast infection before.
- You are not sure that yeast is the cause of your symptoms.
- You are sexually active and might have a sexually transmitted disease instead of a yeast infection.
- If you are pregnant.
- For a skin infection, or an infection of the penis, you can use a nonprescription cream or lotion.
- For a yeast infection in your mouth (thrush), your provider may prescribe liquid medicine that is swished around the mouth and swallowed.
If you have tried nonprescription medicines and they have not worked for you, your provider may prescribe a medicine that is taken by mouth. Take the medicine exactly as prescribed. Usually only one or two doses are needed. Yeast infections on the skin can take a long time to heal. If you do not think the medicine is helping, call your healthcare provider. Donâ€™t increase how much you take or how often you take it without talking to your healthcare provider first.
How can I take care of myself?
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:
- If you have a vaginal yeast infection:
- After urinating, wipe gently to avoid irritation.
- Take a shower instead of a bath. Pat the genital area dry.
- Avoid having sex until the infection is gone.
- If you have a skin infection caused by yeast, try to keep your skin dry with powder or wearing loose clothing. Cotton is best because it absorbs moisture.
Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
Ask your healthcare provider:
- How long it will take to recover
- If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
- How to take care of yourself at home
- What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
How can I help prevent a yeast infection?
Here are some things you can do to help prevent yeast infection:
- Wear loosely fitting clothes made of natural fibers, such as cotton. Avoid wearing tight-fitting and synthetic clothing that causes skin to sweat and doesn’t allow moisture to evaporate. Take wet bathing suits off right away.
- Donâ€™t use irritating cosmetics or chemicals in your genital area. This includes, for example, strong soaps, feminine hygiene sprays, douches, scented tampons, sanitary napkins, or panty liners.
- Keep your vaginal area clean. Wiping from front to back after using the toilet may help prevent infections. Use mild, unscented soap to wash your genital area gently each time you bathe or shower.
- Try eating unsweetened yogurt or taking acidophilus capsules to help restore the natural balance of bacteria. Acidophilus is available in natural food stores and drugstores.
- Avoid frequent or prolonged use of oral antibiotics, if possible. Understand that antibiotics are often not needed and their use should be decided by your healthcare provider. When you are given antibiotics by your provider, take them as directed. Do not share antibiotics with others, and do not save antibiotics for another time.
- Lose weight if you are overweight. (Yeast tends to grow in the skin folds of overweight people â€“ especially the breasts, belly, and groin.)
- If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.
Developed by RelayHealth.
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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