A yeast infection is a type of fungal infection. The main cause of yeast infections is a common yeast called Candida albicans.
Candida albicans lives on the skin and inside the body, such as in the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina, and it usually does not present any problems in most people, but when it grows out of control it can cause infections.
Yeast infections commonly refer to candidiasis in the vagina in women, but yeast infections can also occur in men on the penis, and on the skin causing rashes such as intertrigo (a rash and irritation of the folds of the skin) and diaper rash in infants.
Risk factors for developing a yeast infection include:
- Prolonged use of antibiotics
- Excessive sweating
- Increased age
- A weakened immune system, such as from HIV, cancer treatments, and other causes
- Obesity, especially in people who have large skin rolls where fungi can thrive
- Genetic predisposition to skin disease
- Exposure to sweat, urine, and feces in the diaper area 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
- Abnormal vaginal discharge, which might be thick and white (curd-like) or thin and watery
- Painful intercourse
- Pain while urinating
Symptoms of a yeast infection on the skin may include:
- Skin inflammation
- Itchy skin
- Skin peeling or cracks in the skin
- Red and white skin
- Moist skin
- Small superficial bumps (papules and pustules)
- Secondary bacterial infection, which can cause an unpleasant odor
Symptoms of a yeast infection on the penis may include:
- Itching or burning on the penis or foreskin
- Swelling around the tip of the penis and foreskin
- Redness or a red rash on the penis
- Moist skin on the penis
- Sores or white patches of skin
- Discharge that looks like cottage cheese that may have a bread-like or unpleasant smell
- Difficulty urinating or controlling the urine stream
- Difficulty pulling back the foreskin
- Problems getting or keeping an erection
What Is the Treatment for Yeast Infection?
Treatment for a yeast infection includes topical antifungal ointments and creams, many of which are available over-the-counter (OTC), including:
It is important to have a doctor confirm a diagnosis of yeast infection before using over-the-counter treatments because symptoms of vaginal yeast infections are often similar to many other types of vaginal infections, and symptoms of yeast infection skin rashes can resemble other skin conditions.
If a yeast infection is severe or does not go away with over-the-counter treatments, oral fluconazole (Diflucan) and a steroid cream such as hydrocortisone may be prescribed.
How Do You Prevent Yeast Infection?
Yeast infection can often be prevented by:
- Proper hygiene
- Women should not use douche
- Washing and drying completely after sweating
- Use of antiperspirants to keep skin folds dry
- 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
- Use of skin ointments or pastes to prevent diaper rash
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