Yeast infection, causes and home treatment

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Majority of yeast infections are caused by the Candida albicans. Though “yeast infection” is most commonly called vaginal yeast infection, it also applies to other types of candidiasis. Vaginal yeast infections or vaginal candidiasis occur very often, affecting about 80% of women at some stage in their life cycle. Many women may experience more than two episodes of yeast infections annually.

The main signs and symptoms of yeast infections are itching especially, plus burning, discharge and pain during urination and/or sexual intercourse.

Topical or oral antifungal drugs are used for effective treatment of yeast infections in men and women. Recurrent yeast infections occurring more than four times within a year may need longer treatment course and maintenance plan. Yeast infections are common during pregnancy. Pregnant women and others who develop signs and symptoms of yeast infections should see expert healthcare professionals for proper investigation, counseling, treatment and monitoring.

Yeast infections can be transmitted amongst sexual partners, though the infections are not truly sexually-transmitted, because it can occur in women who are not sexually active. It simply means that yeast infections might happen after certain sexual activities, especially during the oral-genital sexual contact.

The fungus, Candida is a naturally occurring microorganism in the vaginal area. And the bacteria, Lactobacillus keeps its growth under control. But if there is imbalance in the system, the control mechanism of the bacteria will be insignificant. This leads to an over population of yeast, which manifests in signs and symptoms of vaginal yeast infections.

Keeping the vaginal area dry and avoiding irritating chemicals can help prevent yeast infections in women. In men, keeping good hygiene and avoiding oral-genital sexual contact with infected women will check yeast infections. Consuming foods containing probiotics can also help to keep away yeast infections. Promptly consult expert healthcare providers in case of observed signs and symptoms of yeast infections, for an accurate diagnosis and other medical interventions.

WHAT ARE YEAST INFECTIONS?

Yeast infections commonly regarded as vaginal yeast infections are common fungal infections of the genitals. They most commonly affect women, but can also occur in men who are in sexual contact with yeast infected partners. A vaginal yeast infection results from the over population of yeast in the genital organ.

Vaginal yeast infection, also called candida vaginitis or vulvovaginal candidiasis, is most commonly caused by the fungus, Candida albicans. Over 90% of yeast infections, particularly vaginal yeast infection are caused by this species of fungi. Yeast infections can also be caused by other Candida species, including Candida glabrata, Candida parapsilosis, Candida tropicalis and Candida krusei.

More than 6% of women can experience recurrent or chronic yeast infections more than four times in a year.  Once you get a yeast infection, you may probably get another one shortly after. Candida species can be present in the vagina of healthy women without causing any obvious signs and symptoms. Researchers estimated that more than 40% of women have Candida domicile in their vaginas.  Yeast infections are indication of imbalance in the populations of yeast and bacteria in the vagina. Men can also complain of yeast infections in their genitals, mouths and other areas.

CAUSES OF YEAST INFECTIONS

Vaginal yeast infections or yeast infections known as candidiasis are peculiarly female disorders. A healthy vagina houses many bacteria and some yeast cells. But when the balance of bacteria and yeast (a type of fungus) population alters, the yeast cells can multiply, causing infections.Vaginal yeast infections are sometimes referred to as yeast vaginitis, Candidal vaginitis,  Candidal vulvovaginitis or simply yeast infections. The yeast that causes vaginitis is Candida. Candida albicans specifically can be present in the vagina of healthy women without causing any major discomforting signs and symptoms.

The most common bacteria, Lactobacillus acidophilus, help to keep other organisms-like the yeast-under control as they co-inhabit the vagina. When something happens to change the balance of these organisms, yeast can grow too much and cause signs and symptoms of infections.

There are other things that can cause the imbalance in bacteria and yeast population in the body, leading to yeast infections. Certain drugs including birth control pills, antibiotics and steroids sometimes cause this imbalance.  For instance, if the natural protective bacteria are eradicated by antibiotics taken against urinary tract, respiratory or other types of infections or by immunosuppressive drugs, the yeast can multiply, invade tissues and cause (vaginitis) vaginal itching, burning and other classic signs and symptoms of yeast infections. The high estrogen levels from oral contraceptives, pregnancy or hormonal imbalance near menstrual cycle (hormone therapy) can also be responsible. Uncontrolled diabetes, obesity and HIV infections are other factors which can cause the imbalance in bacteria and yeast population. Other conditions which may predispose people to developing yeast infections include the use of douches or perfumed vaginal hygiene sprays, weak immune system, poor eating habits, including a lot of sugary foods, stress and insomnia which can weaken the (immune system) resistance of the body to infections.Vaginal yeast infections can also occur as a result of inner vaginal injury from such as chemotherapy.

TRANSMISSION OF YEAST INFECTIONS

According to most medical experts, yeast infections of the vagina are not among sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but they can be transmitted through oral-genital contact or during sexual intercourse. There are occasional reports of irritation and itching of the penis in men after sexual contact with women with yeast infections.  So it is possible for infected sexually active females to spread the infection to their male sexual partners. Treatment of male sexual partners is not considered necessary unless the male develops signs and symptoms of yeast infections.

COMPLICATIONS OF YEAST INFECTIONS

Some types of candidiasis or yeast infections can lead to serious frequent health problems or complications if left untreated.  If there is a compromised immune system from such as HIV or persistent steroid use, thrush can lead to life-threatening systemic infections. The yeast may enter the bloodstream through such as contaminated catheters, resulting to a condition called invasive candidiasis which can travel to other parts of the body including the lungs, liver and heart valves with outcome of essential organ failure and death. Candida yeasts are the fourth leading cause of bloodstream infections and complications in the United States, according to a study published in January 2007 in the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews.

Pregnancy vulvovaginal candidiasis is especially common among pregnant women and the infection is sometimes considered a complication during pregnancy. Diabetes vaginal yeast infection is a complication associated with type 2 diabetes.  This metabolic disease makes people more susceptible to yeast infections especially the azole-resistant species of yeast, Candida glabrata. Uncontrolled diabetes produces high levels of sugar in the blood, which equally affects the sugar levels in other areas of the body especially, the mucous membrane in the vagina and vulva where Candida rapidly reproduce to cause infections.

RISK FACTORS OF YEAST INFECTION

There are some factors which increase the risk of developing yeast infections. They include:

  • Impaired immune system. Women with low immunity caused by things like cancer or cancer chemotherapy, diabetes or HIV infection are more prone to yeast infections.
  • Sexual activity. Although yeast infections are not purely sexually transmitted, sexual contact can spread the candida fungus.
  • Pregnant women and women taking oral contraceptives are at increased risk of yeast infections. Pregnancy adds to the risk of yeast infections because of hormonal changes which likely help Candidato thrive. Also, vaginal secretions during pregnancy have high sugar concentrations which enhance yeast presence and yeast infections.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes. Diabetic women whose blood sugar levels are poorly controlled are at greater risk of yeast infections.
  • Antibiotic use. Yeast infections occur more in women who take antibiotics especially under drug abuse. The fact here is that the broad-spectrum antibiotics which kill a range of bacteria also kill healthy bacteria in the vagina, leading to over population of yeast cells in the vagina.
  • Increased estrogen levels. Yeast infections are rampant among women with increased estrogen levels. This includes pregnant women or those taking high-dose of estrogen birth control pills or contraceptive devices or estrogen hormone or corticosteroid therapy.
  • Other activities. Things that can cause changes in normal vaginal flora including douching can contribute to yeast infections. Also, the presence of alternate Candida fungi, poor diet and lack of sleep can increase the risk of yeast infections.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF YEAST INFECTIONS

The signs and symptoms of yeast infections including vaginal yeast infections range from mild to moderate.  They include:

  • Watery vaginal discharge that is typically thick, odorless and whitish-gray in color
  • Intense itching of the vaginal or genital area and rashes
  • Irritation and burning sensation
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain or burning during urination, and at the tip of the penis
  • Severe redness, irritation or soreness or skin fissures and inflammation of the vagina or vulva

PREVENTION OF YEAST INFECTIONS

There is no assured prevention of yeast infections, but certain precautions can reduce the risk of contracting yeast infections especially vaginal yeast infection.

  • Stop douching that can introduce chemical irritants into the body, and be mindful of personal (body) hygiene
  • Be careful of the use of feminine deodorant or deodorant pads or tampons
  • Wear underwear made from cotton or other natural fibres
  • Promptly change wet clothing such as bathing suits and workout wears
  • Avoid frequent sitting on hot tubs and hot baths
  • Wear loose fitting pants or skirts or pantyhose
  • Wash underwear regularly at a high temperature
  • Eat balanced diet and foods with probiotics (healthy bacteria that are naturally found in the body) like probiotic-containing yogurt
  • Always reduce moisture in the genital area particularly the vagina by cleaning from front to back
  • Bath or shower and change pads or tampons regularly
  • Stop the abuse of antibiotics
  • After using the restroom, wipe from front to back to avoid introducing yeast or bacteria from the anus into the vagina or urinary tract
  • Avoid sexual intercourse with a woman who has signs and symptoms of yeast infections
  • Recognize your own risk factors and avoid them

TREATMENT OF YEAST INFECTIONS

A specific kind of yeast called Candida albicans causes most yeast infections which are easily treatable. In the case of recurring yeast infections or having problems getting rid of yeast infections with conventional treatment, then a different version of Candida might be the cause. A laboratory test can identify the type of Candida causing the infection; and the appropriate treatment instituted.

Treatments are generally determined based on the severity of the signs and symptoms presented by the yeast infections. Also treatment of yeast infections depend on whether it is complicated or uncomplicated or types of candida involved.  Common treatments usually take care of yeast infections caused by Candida albicans. Treating a vaginal yeast infection can relieve symptoms within few days. Uncomplicated yeast infection requires a short-course of oral or direct vaginal therapy. In the case of a complicated yeast infection, the treatment requires the use of long-course vaginal therapy or multi-dose oral formulations. Yeast infections caused by other types of candida fungi can be more difficult to treat, so more aggressive treatment plan which may take about two weeks is need.

Yeast infections commonly occur during pregnancy. During pregnancy do not use drugs for yeast infections without consulting the doctor first. The symptoms and severity of yeast infections are no different during pregnancy, but treatment protocol is a bit different; hence the need for early medical consultation with expert healthcare practitioners. Also, women with diabetes and vaginal yeast infections may need longer courses of treatment.

Generally, treatment of yeast infections for men and women is based on antifungal drugs. The drugs may be applied as topical creams or taken by mouth in pill or tablet form.

HOME REMEDIES FOR YEAST INFECTIONS

Yeast infections are treated using antifungal drugs. Both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) remedies are available that are effective in treating yeast infections. Nonprescription drugs are good home remedies for yeast infections, and they can cure most yeast infections. However, homeopathic methods have not been sufficiently studied for doctors and other healthcare professionals to recommend them for yeast infections, but they may provide relief from Candida signs and symptoms, and possibly, reduce the over population of yeast.

Natural remedies can be used to treat yeast infections under expert medical advice. Some popular natural remedies include:

  • Boric acid vaginal suppositories
  • Plain yogurt taken orally or inserted into the vagina with clean hands
  • Coconut oil
  • Tea tree oil cream
  • Garlic chewed or swallowed

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