A yeast infection, or candidiasis, is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the yeast genus Candida, with C. albicans being the most common culprit. C. albicans normally occurs in small amounts within the human body, but some health problems and medications can cause it to grow out of control.
Yeast infections are most likely to develop in warm and moist areas and thus typically occur in the genitals, the mouth, skin, throat and blood. Yeast infections involving the mouth and/or throat are sometimes called thrush, and those occurring on a baby’s bottom are called diaper rash. A yeast infection that gets in the bloodstream is called candidemia, or invasive candidiasis. While many yeast infections can be mere nuisances, invasive candidiasis can be lethal. Consequently, all yeast infections should be treated by a doctor. The symptoms and treatments of yeast infections vary depending on the location of the infection.
What Causes Yeast Infections?
The basic cause of a yeast infection is an imbalance within the body that has allowed the yeast population to explode. Antibiotics, for example, are a common cause of yeast infections. They kill some of the bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, that feed on the yeast and thus keep it under control. Douches also kill off the good bacteria that control yeast populations. Other medications can alter the acidity or pH balance within the vagina and encourage the yeast within to overgrow. Steroids increase glucose or sugar levels in the blood. Since the yeast feed on glucose, the increased amount encourages the yeast population to spike. Steroids can therefore cause a yeast infection or exacerbate an existing yeast infection. Hormonal changes, like those caused by pregnancy, can also cause yeast infections. High levels of estrogen increase a woman’s susceptibility to vaginal yeast infections.
A weakened immune system, like that in HIV or AIDS patients, also increases the chances of developing a yeast infection. Some types of yeast infections, like thrush, are rarely seen in healthy adults. Invasive candidiasis is also most common in people with compromised immune systems. It is a common cause of lethal bloodstream infections in hospitalized patients. Invasive candidiasis is most common in patients who have recently had surgery, have a catheter and/or are in the ICU. Infants with extremely low birth weights are also at risk of developing invasive candidiasis.
Other health problems associated with yeast infections include diabetes, especially if it has not been appropriately treated or managed. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy can also develop yeast infections. Yeasts infections can be transferred from person to person. Thus, a patient who has a genital yeast infection will give it to their partner. Having many sexual partners therefore increases the chances of getting a yeast infection.
Make Your Appointment Today
If you are suffering from a yeast infection or suspect that a yeast infection may be developing, Associates in Women’s Health in Cincinnati is here to help. Our highly trained medical professionals are experts in every aspect of gynecology. Contact our office today to schedule your appointment.