What is a Yeast Infection (Candidiasis)?
Yeast or candida is a fungus which lives in and around the body. At times it can grow and cause an infection called candidiasis or yeast infection.
Generally, when people talk about yeast infections, they refer to vaginal candidiasis. However, this fungus can cause an ailment anywhere from head to toe and it can affect both genders. (1)
Small amounts of this fungus are always present somewhere in or on the body, yet will only cause damage when defenses have been compromised.
There are more than 20 kinds of yeast which can reside in humans. They’re generally found in the intestinal tract but can also live around mucous membranes and on the skin. (2)
When a particular event jeopardizes the immune system, the yeast multiplies uncontrollably, causing an infection. The primary locations can include the mouth, throat, esophagus, skin or vagina.
People who present a higher risk may include: those who regularly take antibiotics, are obese or suffer from diabetes. It is also more prevalent among pregnant women and those with an impaired immune system. (3)
Yeast may also invade the bloodstream. This is called invasive candidiasis and can be life threatening if it reaches the heart or other vital organs. (4)
Symptoms of different yeast infections are:
When a yeast fungus begins to infect the skin, it will typically trigger a red skin rash in the area. This is an inflammatory response from immune cells present on the surface which will try to fight off the invasion.
Itchiness is likely to occur in and around the area and can cause the rash to increase in size.
It can occur anywhere, but it’s more commonly seen around skin folds or in moist, damp areas. Common locations include the buttocks, under the breasts and near the genitals.
Candidiasis on the skin is prevalent among babies and tends to thrive, especially, throughout the diaper area. This is a common cause of diaper rash. (5)
Yeast may also infect hair follicles (holes) and the small sweat glands.
Upon infection the area will likely change to a pimple-like exterior, which might cause minor hair fall and discomfort. (6)
White patches can usually indicate a yeast infection in the mouth. These may be seen on the inside of the cheeks, tongue, roof and near the throat.
Yeast infections in the mouth are generally referred to as “thrush.” The affected is likely to have a cotton-like feeling even after brushing teeth. (7)
Redness and Soreness
If the white patches are scraped off or otherwise removed, the skin is likely to appear red and sore to touch. Some might perceive this as a burning or irritable sensation. (8)
Change of Taste
The affected may experience a change of taste while eating. Some might lose this sense to a limited degree or even completely until the infection subsides. This is likely to have adverse effects while eating and may cause discomfort or social anxiety on a daily basis.
Pain might be encountered while swallowing which could be an indicator that the infection is moving to the throat and beyond. (9)
Around the mouth, especially in the corners, skin might become very dry and is likely to crack. It could become difficult to open up wide as the area has become red and sore. (10)
A yeast infection in the genital area will most likely cause itching. This might lead to soreness and pain as the top layer skin is damaged and may even spread the fungus further. (11)
Pain is very prevalent during a yeast infection.
Those affected are likely to encounter discomfort and pain especially during sexual intercourse or while urinating. (12)
Women might experience a change in vaginal discharge.
Discharge is fluid coming from the vagina. It acts as a natural defense against infections. It is typically a transparent or white colored liquid which is mostly odorless. (13)
During an infection, the discharge is likely to change appearance to a green or yellow color, which may have a strong odor.
The most prevalent type of yeast which infects humans is called candida albicans. This undergoes a transformation inside the body, where it will attach to the surface of a host cell and then begin to multiply. It creates a bond (biofilm) which glues the fungi together and enables them to hold on to the surface while growing.
This type of yeast is typically found in the stomach or intestinal tract, but during illness or other hormonal imbalances it may spread to different areas and thereby cause infections.
The yeast fungus will go through four stages of development. This transformation can take place either on the inside or on the skin surface. These fungi have an ability to form a robust exterior allowing them to survive diverse environments. (14)
In the first stage, yeast adherences begin to gather at the surface of the cell after a specific event has started to compromise the immune system. This could be caused by various events which can cause hormonal balance, such as illness or taking certain medications like antibiotics.
The yeast fungi are starting to multiply rapidly as the immune defenses begin to show significant impairments. The yeast has formed anchoring base cells which will now hook onto the host.
The yeast cells are now maturing, growing longer and are developing new skill sets. They build traits or biofilms which sit outside the cell and prepare for the last stage.
In the last stage, the yeast has successfully formed attributes which are then dispersed from the base and travel to invade other sites.
In order to diagnose a yeast infection, doctors will typically begin by examining the area where they may recognize the fungus. However, further testing is done to determine a suitable treatment. (15)
A sample is likely to be taken from the yeast which will be analyzed in a lab to identify the type.
When a diagnosis is made, treatment will begin.
Yeast infections are usually treated with antifungal medications. The doctor may prescribe this as either a topical cream or lotion, or as an oral pill.
It will depend on personal preferences and the type of infection. Some medicines might include: clotrimazole, miconazole or nystatin. (16, 17)
We’ve already established those who have a weak immune system have a significantly higher chance of developing a yeast infection. The likelihood of this fungus spreading even further and invading the bloodstream is very high.
Once the yeast infection spreads to the blood, it can travel to distant sites such as the brain or heart, leading to disastrous effects. (18)
The treatment will still revolve around antifungal drugs, although doses may vary and some may be ruled out if they’re considered more harmful than beneficial.
What is a yeast infection (candidiasis)? It’s an infection caused by a yeast fungus which may occur anywhere in or on the body.
What are the signs of a yeast infection (candidiasis)? Signs and symptoms depend on which type you have. They will generally appear as red rashes, with a tendency to grow. White patches might become apparent inside the mouth. If the infection involves the genital area, the affected will likely experience itching and pain while urinating or a change in vaginal discharge.
How do you develop a yeast infection (candidiasis)? When the body’s defenses are impaired, the yeast will begin to multiply and infect the surrounding tissues, triggering symptoms. Women present a higher risk during pregnancy when hormonal imbalances can cause a growth spurt in the fungi. (19)
How are you diagnosed with a yeast infection (candidiasis)? Doctors can generally identify a yeast infection by looking at it. Further testing such as blood tests and sample collection might be done to determine the specific type and the proper treatment.
What is the best treatment of a yeast infection (candidiasis)? Treatment for all types of yeast infections involves some kind of antifungal medicine. These may help slow down the growth and ease symptoms. (20)
What are the long term complications of a yeast infection (candidiasis)? If yeast infections occur often, this may be a sign of another condition. The fungus is usually treated quite easily, but if treatment isn’t completed the infection may return. (21)
Is a yeast infection (candidiasis) considered a disability? A yeast infection is not considered a disability.
Is there a cure for a yeast infection (candidiasis)? Yeast fungi will always be present somewhere around the body, but the infection can be eliminated with treatment.
Is a yeast infection (candidiasis) life threatening? Yes, if the yeast comes through to the bloodstream, it can cause life threatening complications. It may show significant effects on the heart and brain or other vital organs.
A yeast infection occurs when the body’s defenses or hormonal balances are thrown off course.
It is caused by a substance called candida (yeast) that lives in the human body. Everyone is likely to have a small amount of these fungi in the stomach, but they can also live near mucous membranes, on the skin surface and the vagina.
In certain conditions they can grow uncontrollably, causing infections. These are generally harmless and can be treated easily with antifungal medicines.