What Is A Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection is a type of fungal infection caused by a common yeast called Candida albicans. Most people have some Candida living on their skin and inside their body, such as in the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina, and it usually does not present any problems.
When Candida grows out of control it can cause infections. Yeast infections often refer to candidiasis in the vagina in women, but yeast infections can also occur in men on the penis, and on the skin and result in rashes such as intertrigo (a rash and irritation of the folds of the skin) and diaper rash in infants.
What Are Symptoms of Yeast Infection?
Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include:
- Vulvar itching or soreness (the most common symptom)
- Pain, redness, or irritation of the vulva and vagina
- Pain on urination
- Pain during intercourse
- Abnormal vaginal discharge, which might be thick and white (curd-like) or thin and watery
Symptoms of a yeast infection on the skin may include:
- Skin inflammation
- Itchy skin
- Moist skin
- Skin peeling or cracks in the skin
- Red and white skin
- Small superficial papules and pustules
- Secondary bacterial infection that may cause an unpleasant odor
Symptoms of a yeast infection on the penis in males may include:
- Itching or burning on the tip of the penis or the foreskin
- Redness or a red rash on the penis
- Itching and burning sensation on the penis
- Moist skin on the penis
- Swelling around the tip of the penis and foreskin
- Discharge that looks like cottage cheese that may have a bread-like or unpleasant smell
- Sores or white patches of skin
- Difficulty pulling back the foreskin
- Difficulty urinating or controlling the urine stream
- Problems getting or keeping an erection
What Causes Yeast Infection?
Yeast infections are caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. Most people have a small amount of Candida on or in the body, but when it grows out of control it can develop into an infection.
Risk factors for developing a yeast infection include:
- A weakened immune system, such as from HIV or cancer treatment or other causes
- Obesity, especially in people who have large skin rolls where fungi can thrive
- Type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes
- Prolonged use of antibiotics
- Genetic tendency to skin disease
- Excessive sweating
- In infants, exposure to sweat, urine, and feces in the diaper area
Is a Yeast Infection Contagious?
Yeast infections are typically not contagious.
Uncommonly, a yeast infection can be passed from person-to-person during sexual intercourse though it is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI) because yeast infections can occur in people who are not sexually active.
How Is Yeast Infection Diagnosed?
To diagnose a yeast infection, a doctor will perform a physical exam.
Tests that may be used to help diagnose a yeast infection include:
- Swab of the vagina, penis, or skin for bacterial culture
- Skin scraping to culture fungi
- Skin biopsy if the skin condition is unusual or does not respond to treatment
What Is the Treatment for Yeast Infection?
Treatment for yeast infection usually includes topical antifungal ointments and creams. Many of these are available over-the-counter (OTC), such as:
Because symptoms of vaginal yeast infections may be similar to many other types of vaginal infections, and symptoms of yeast infection skin rashes can resemble other skin conditions, it is important to have a doctor confirm the diagnosis before using over-the-counter treatments.
If the yeast infection is severe or does not clear up with over-the-counter preparations, oral fluconazole (Diflucan) and a hydrocortisone cream may be prescribed.
What Are Complications of Yeast Infection?
Complications of yeast infection include:
- Yeast infection may enter the bloodstream (candidemia or invasive candidiasis)
How Do You Prevent Yeast Infection?
Yeast infection may be prevented by:
- Proper hygiene
- Avoiding perfumed soaps or shower gels on the genitals, which may cause irritation
- Wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear to prevent moisture buildup in the genital area
- Women should not use douche
- Washing and drying completely after sweating
- A hair dryer on the cool setting may aid in drying areas such as armpits and under the breasts
- Use of antiperspirants to keep skin folds dry
- Use of skin ointments or pastes to prevent diaper rash
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