What is a Yeast Infection: What Causes a Yeast Infection?

What is a yeast infection? Most people only think of yeast infections in terms of vaginal yeast infections. There are, however, many types of yeast infections that affect different areas of the body. The technical term for these infections as a group is candidiasis. Most candidal infections are superficial and occur in moist, warm areas on the body such as the mouth, underarms, and vagina. In rare cases, a yeast infection may become systemic and spread throughout the body. About 75% of systemic yeast infections may be fatal. Yeast infections that become systemic are called candidemia.

Yeast infection causes and treatments

Understanding what is a yeast infection will help you to relieve the discomfort from this condition.

Common types of superficial yeast infections include candidal vulvovaginitis (vaginal yeast infection) and oral candidasis (thrush). Common symptoms with most yeast infections are redness, itchy, and burning. Yeast infections may cause itching, burning and soreness around the vagina or vulva as well as a whitish, cottage cheese-like discharge. Symptoms of thrush usually appear on the tongue, gums, palate, tonsils, or inner cheeks. The affected area may appear inflamed and covered in thick, whitish lesions with a cottage cheese-like appearance. Thrush is not uncommon in infants and should not pose any serious health risks unless it lasts more than a few weeks.

What causes yeast infection?

The cause of most yeast infections is the overgrowth of yeast in an area of the body. Yeast grows naturally in the human body and its growth is usually limited by the immune system, however, it’s when an overgrowth of yeast is triggered that yeast infections occur. The most common trigger for yeast overgrowth is the use of antibiotics and steroids. In the case of vaginal yeast infection, healthy bacteria in the vagina is may be destroyed by antibiotics, leaving once normal levels of yeast to multiply and results in a yeast infection. Any imbalance in the vagina’s natural environment can cause a yeast overgrowth, including pregnancy, birth control pills and wearing a wet swimsuit for too long. Like vaginal yeast infection, Thrush is also caused by an imbalance between natural bacteria and yeast. Tongue piercings, dentures, and breastfeeding for infants can create risk for yeast infection in the mouth. A yeast infection may become systemic if a person has a weakened immune system. The yeast infection enters the body through cuts or abrasions in the skin of the affected area and spreads throughout the body because the immune system is not strong enough to fight it.


Common treatments for yeast infection:
Treatment for yeast infection depends on the type and severity of the infection. In mild cases of vaginal yeast infection, the infection may clear up on its own, otherwise the infection can be treated at home with over-the-counter creams or suppositories. In severe cases, a doctor may need to prescribe a stronger medication. Mild cases of thrush in children and adults may be treated by eating unsweetened yogurt or taking acidophilus capsules. The healthy bacteria in yogurt and acidophilus can help to restore normal bacteria in the body. Oral antifungal medications may be prescribed for persistent infections. Infant thrush can be treated with a doctor prescribed mild antifungal medication. If a yeast infection has become systemic, treatment may need to be given in a hospital setting.

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