What is a yeast infection?
Yeast, known as Candida, is a fungus that resides both inside and outside your body in areas such as the mouth, throat, skin, and other organs. If Candida replicates excessively, it can cause Candidiasis a yeast infection that is caused by the replication of Candida in various organs. A severe form of infection is called invasive Candidiasis, which spreads throughout and colonizes multiple parts of the body.
Common causative organisms
There are hundreds of species within the genus Candida, but only a few are known to cause human infections. The most common species include:
- Candida albicans: This fungus is the most common cause of severe Candida infections that is part of the human biome. It is detected in the gastrointestinal tract and the skin.
- Candida Auris: This fungus has one of the highest resistance rates, with over 90% of C. Auris resistance to fluconazole. This has developed into a global public health crisis, especially that it is hard to detect and is easily transmitted between patients in hospitals and hospices.
- Candida Glabrata: This fungus is considered the second most prevalent cause of Candida infections. There has been an increase in resistance to antifungal medications, thereby increasing its population.
- Candida Parapsilosis: This fungus primarily colonizes the skin spreads through direct skin-skin contact causing tissue and wound infection. It has been isolated from nonhuman sources such as soil.
Yeast infection can affect multiple systems in the body. Some of these systems include:
- Vaginal: Candida can replicate and cause an infection if the environment of the vagina allows growth. This is very common and has been reported to be present in 75% of women.
- Oral: A yeast infection known as thrush can grow in the mouth, throat, and esophagus. Although this is not common in healthy individuals, it has been demonstrated that more than 1/3 of HIV-positive individuals develop yeast infections.
- Skin: Yeast infection can develop on the skin, specifically in spaces such as under the arms, scalp, and between fingers and toes.
- Nails: Yeast infection can replicate under the nail and cause nail loss.
What are the symptoms associated with yeast infection?
Symptoms and severity depend on the location of the infection.
These symptoms based on each system include:
- Pain during sex or urinating
- Itching or soreness
- White thick discharge
- White patches in the mouth
- Redness or soreness
- Pain while eating
- Loss of taste buds
Skin and Nail
- Patches of inflammation
- Broken nails and nail loss
What are the risk factors associated with yeast infection?
Certain risk factors increase a person’s chance of developing a yeast infection by enhancing the replication of Candida.
These factors include:
- Antibiotics: The use of antibiotics to kill bacteria can cause Candida to grow.
- Contraceptives: The use of contraceptives that contains estrogen increases the likelihood of developing yeast infections.
- Weakened immune system: Individuals who have pre-existing immune disorders can increase their chances of developing yeast infections.
- Medications: Certain medications also contribute to a weakened immune system increasing susceptibility to yeast infection
- Comorbidities: Some comorbidities such as diabetes can play a role as high glucose levels help yeast grow.
What are preventive measures for yeast infection?
Vaginal: The use of cotton underwear has shown to help prevent vaginal infections.
Oral: Good oral hygiene that includes daily brushing and flossing has shown to be associated with decreased oral infections.
Skin: Keep skin clean, dry, and avoid direct skin-skin contact with other individuals.
What are the diagnostic methods for yeast infection?
Diagnostic methods for each system include:
Vaginal: Take a sample from vaginal discharge to identify if it contains fungal culture
Oral: Physical examination and sample from the mouth to identify if it contains fungal culture
Skin and Nails: Samples from skin scrapings, hair, or nail clippings to identify if it contains fungal culture
What are the treatment options for yeast infection?
Treatment modalities differ based on the affected system and severity.
Antifungal medications can be applied to the area of the vagina(Clotrimazole (Lotrimin and Mycelex) Miconazole (Monistat and Micatin) Tioconazole (Vagistat-1)), or oral tablets of fluconazole can be taken.
For mild infections, antifungal medications can be applied in the mouth for one to two weeks.
For severe infections, oral antifungal medications such as fluconazole can be taken.
Skin and Nails
Antifungal medications such as ointments and lotions need to be applied to the skin.
In the case of nail fungal infections, the doctor is most likely to prescribe oral antifungal medications.
Yeast infections can target various systems in the body, which include vaginal, oral, and skin. There are various Candida fungi that cause a yeast infection, and with time, Candida has developed antifungal resistance making them more challenging to treat. Although yeast infections are not life-threatening, it is essential to seek help from your physician once you develop any of the symptoms. Early detection and treatment are vital in preventing future infections.