Yeast infections are caused by a yeast called Candida Albicans, a type of fungus that is both a normal part of the body’s flora and the cause of pathogenic disease if it multiplies out of control. There are at least 20 species of Candida, with Candida Albicans being the most common. Candida infections (or candidiasis) can infect many parts of the body including skin folds, armpits, mouth (oral thrush) or a baby’s diaper area.
Although Candida is not a sexually transmitted disease, since it’s present in a normal vagina and can occur in celibate women, it can be passed from one partner to another by sexual intercourse. About 75% of women will have a vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime, and while not common, this infection can be passed to her male partner.
Anyone can get a yeast infection at any age. The candida organism thrives in areas where the environment is right – warm, moist and dark and this is why a yeast infections is such a common affliction for women. A woman’s vagina is the perfect environment for yeast to grow.
A vaginal yeast infection is caused by an imbalance in the normal vaginal flora upsetting the functioning of vaginal tissue. Healthy bacteria keep the normal vagina slightly acidic, which naturally prevents the yeast from growing out of control. Everyone has some Candida Albicans in their body, but it doesn’t usually cause any problems unless something happens to cause an imbalance between it and healthy bacteria.
The balance between good bacteria and Candida
Several factors can upset the delicate balance between good bacteria and Candida Albicans.
A naturally occurring factor is the normal hormonal changes during a woman’s menstrual cycle or during pregnancy, particularly an increase in estrogen. Birth control pills also increase estrogen levels. Contraceptive sponges, diaphragms and IUDs are also associated with yeast infection.
Some medications, particularly antibiotics can upset the balance because antibiotics cannot distinguish between good and bad bacteria. This means that when you take a course of antibiotics for an infection, you are also affecting good bacteria throughout your body. Another medication that can increase risk of yeast infection is steroids.
Some medical conditions, medical treatments and a weakened immune system can also affect the bacterial balance in your body. There is an increased risk of candida infection in diabetes, cancer and HIV/AIDS Some cancer and transplant medications can also cause increased yeast infection.
Yeast infection symptoms
Yeast infections in women cause itching, burning, soreness, pain during urination and intercourse and an odorless vaginal discharge the color and texture of cottage cheese.
Yeast infections affecting the penis (male yeast infection or thrush in men) cause irritation, soreness, reddish patches and severe itching to the head and shaft of the penis. There is sometimes a slight discharge and pain during urination.
A yeast infection can also be passed to a baby during birth. The baby may get some secretions from the birth canal in his mouth, causing oral thrush shortly after birth. Babies may also get oral thrush when they’re older because there are no protective bacteria in their mouths to prevent a yeast overgrowth.
The most common way thrush is identified is when a mother or doctor notices white patches on the inside of her baby’s mouth. The baby will also be quite uncomfortable, crying often and showing signs of discomfort during feeding.
Babies can also develop diaper rashes associated with yeast. If your baby has a diaper rash that’s difficult to clear up or has recurrent diaper rashes with an unexplained cause, you might consider a yeast infection as the cause.
If you notice thrush in your baby’s mouth or recurrent diaper rashes that don’t clear up easily, consult your doctor. Or, if you have recurrent yeast infections or are at higher risk for developing yeast infections, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk of this uncomfortable condition.
CHealth – Yeast Infection: http://chealth.canoe.ca/channel_section_details.asp?text_id=4260&channel_id=2050&relation_id=38501
MedicineNet – Yeast Vaginitis:
Articlesbase – Yeast Infection in Babies: