Yeast infection, also known as candidiasis, and genital or vulvovaginal thrush is a real problem among women and men –yes, men also suffer from yeast infections, but more on that shortly. It is estimated that 3 out of 4 women will have at least one episode of yeast infection in their lifetime, while another 45 percent will have recurrent episodes.
It can be very uncomfortable as well as embarrassing. An untreated case of full blown yeast infection can turn a well-dressed male or female into a walking “genital scratcher”. Yes, it’s that terrible.
If you’re reading this, chances are you suspect that you or a loved one has yeast infection. The good news is that it is treatable and can be cured. In this guide, we’ll be examining the following crucial points:
- Common causes of yeast infection
- Symptoms that will help you prove beyond doubt that it’s what you really have. This is important because some genital infections can have similar symptoms.
- Everything you should know about male and female Yeast Infection
- Can diabetes cause or trigger yeast infections?
- How about yeast infection in teens? Is that possible?
- Can pregnancy induce yeast infections
- What to do if you are a first time or frequent sufferer
- Yeast Infection During Menopause
- Yeast Infection Treatment options
- Yeast Infection Prevention Tips
- What to Do About Recurrent Yeast Infection Episodes
What Causes Yeast Infection?
Your body naturally contains and maintains a good, healthy number of good bacteria and fungus. Therefore, you currently have one or more of the twenty different types of Candida yeasts in/on your body as they are often found in the mucus membranes and on the skin.
The most common yeast infection in women is caused by a fungus known as Candida albicans, hence the reason it is alternatively referred to as candidiasis. This usually happens when there is a sudden increase in the population of the fungus in the genitals.
Yeast infection can be triggered by a low immune system. This is why it is often more common in women who have HIV, have undergone or are undergoing chemotherapy or are on immunosuppressants and corticosteroids.
Other causes include the use of birth control, reaction to certain chemicals, the use of vaginal sprays, douching, prolonged ingestion of antibiotics (particularly amoxicillin), pregnancy, lupus, uncontrolled or undetected diabetes, hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women… basically actions or therapies that affect the equilibrium of healthy microorganisms and flora resident in the genital area.
Symptoms of Yeast Infection
Sometimes, the symptoms of various genital conditions can be so similar that if you don’t know exactly what to look for, you’ll end up treating the wrong conditions and potentially exacerbating the real condition. With this in mind therefore, the symptoms of yeast infection are:
- Mild to severe itching around the vulva
- Sore, painful, swollen and even reddened vulva
- Cheese or curd-like discharge from the vagina. Usually doesn’t smell.
- Painful sex –although this can be a symptom of other conditions
- Painful urination
- Painful itching of the penis and penile rashes in men
As stated earlier, some of these symptoms are also common among people suffering from urinary tract infections and other sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and staph aureus.
People who have gonorrhea for instance, will have trouble urinating as they’ll most likely feel a burning sensation whenever they do so. So, will those suffering from a urinary tract infection. This is why you must consult a doctor for proper diagnosis. This guide is exactly that… a guide providing you with general information about yeast infection.
Everything About Male Yeast Infection
Yeast infection in men is often called balanitis. While it isn’t as common as female yeast infection, it happens enough to be a drag. This is possible because, like women, men also have resident fungi on their skin –particularly dark, moist areas- that are typically controlled.
However, an introduction of a foreign fungi or the presence of an enabling environment can result in increased fungi population, which will in turn cause the yeast infection.
Men who suffer from yeast infections typically have inherent risk factors present. These factors include:
- Infection by a sexual partner. While it’s rare to contract yeast infection through sexual intercourse, it is very possible particularly when there is an enabling environment.
- Uncircumcised men have a higher predisposition. Again, understandable as many don’t take the time to properly clean the foreskin and the area around it, providing an excellent habitat for the microorganisms to thrive.
- Are immunocompromised or have a weak immune system. This is why it is more common among men who have HIV, those undergoing chemo or radiotherapy and any other health condition that weakens the immune system.
- Obesity can also contribute to the cause. This is possible because obese people –particularly those with enormous weight issues- tend to sweat a lot and have areas that don’t get enough air –including the genitals, thus providing an environment where these microorganisms can thrive well.
- Prolonged ingestion of broad spectrum antibiotics can cause an imbalance in the microbial population, resulting in an increased population of yeasts.
- Have poor personal hygiene or use irritants that trigger the infection. For instance, certain spermicides like nonoxynol-9 in condoms can tilt the microbial balance, resulting in yeast infection. Men should also take the time to dry their privates properly after having their bath. If you’re in doubt, try using methylated or antiseptic dusting powder after drying. This will provide an extra cool and dry environment.
- Males undergoing dialysis may also experience episodes of yeast infection.
Many men panic when these symptoms present -and understandably so seeing as most guys dread STIs- thinking they’ve caught gonorrhea, staph aureus, syphilis or worse still, HIV. Don’t panic. Lookout for some or all of the following symptoms to determine if you have the male yeast infection:
- White patches on the penis.
- Reddening of the penis. This will often appear in the form of red dots particularly around the penis tip.
- Pain during sex.
- Swollen and inflamed glans and/or shaft.
- Persistent itching of the penis, scrotal sac and all surrounding areas.
- For the uncircumcised, they will find it difficult to pull back the foreskin as well as notice smelly, thick, lumpy discharge.
- Painful urination.
- Chronic sufferers will probably notice the infection spreading to surrounding body parts such as thighs, scrotum, anus, the perineum, and buttocks.
The good news is that balanitis is treatable. With these symptoms, it’s pretty easy to determine if you have male yeast infection. However, even with all these information, please understand that self-diagnosis isn’t necessarily the way to go.
Some other health conditions –particularly those relating to sexually transmitted diseases- can have similar symptoms to male yeast infection. So, have your doctor check you out and see what your symptoms actually point to.
For those who are embarrassed about going to the doctor, yes, we understand that this is an embarrassing condition and the reason you may want to avoid seeing the doctor. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
You could self-diagnose and then have to deal with the fallout of a wrong diagnosis if it turns out you have something else. You should also understand that not all of these symptoms will present at the same time. So, don’t go checking off the list of symptoms.
People’s bodies differ and could present differing symptoms that could confuse someone who isn’t a medical professional, but would be obvious to the practiced eye –another reason a visit to the doctor is important.
Can Diabetes Cause or Trigger Yeast Infections?
While the core of this guide is aimed at providing you with all the information you need on yeast infection caused by Candida albicans, there’s another type of yeast infection caused by Candida glabrata which is common among diabetes sufferers.
There’s evidence tying the increased risk of this specific type of yeast infection to diabetics. Studies have shown that when diabetes isn’t properly controlled, it can be a trigger factor for yeast infection in women. In fact, it is often seen as an indicator that your diabetes is out of control.
The truth is that yeast loves sugar… a lot. Sadly, yeast infection while you are diabetic can be a real thorny issue. Many women have reported recurrent yeast infection or one that was completely resistant to all the treatments they threw at it until they started monitoring and cutting back on their sugar levels.
The same also goes for the consumption of antibiotics among diabetics. People living with diabetes have a higher chance of suffering from yeast infection after a round of antibiotics or prolonged ingestion of the drugs because these drugs tend to leave their immune systems weak.
You need to discuss the possibility of this with your doctor if you’ll be going on a course of antibiotics. This doesn’t happen to women only. It can and does happen to guys too. So, you should take the necessary precautions.
How About Yeast Infection in Teens? Is That Possible?
Even teenagers aren’t spared from this inconveniencing condition. The reason it just isn’t more prevalent or popular is because teens tend to have a stronger immune system, don’t engage in major risk factors such as sex, tend to have working pancreases -unless they have type 1 diabetes which means their bodies just don’t produce insulin- and are generally not predisposed to it. However, it can and does happen.
When it does happen, it can be quite the issue, particularly for image-conscious teenagers who already have to deal with raging hormones, peer pressure and a ton of many other adolescent issues.
If you have been through high school, then you know that your teenager cannot afford to be the “itchy gal or guy” in the entire school. That’s a reputation they will never be able to shake off until they are done with high school and probably move to another city/state.
Yeast infections in teenagers are sometimes triggered at the beginning of puberty. Essentially, young girls who are about to start their menses may experience them owing to the sudden imbalance in their hormone levels.
Another trigger could be their wearing of very tight underwear made from materials that aren’t breathable. A good example of this is nylon. Materials like these tend to trap moisture, creating a conducive environment for the fungus to thrive.
Douching, scented soaps and sanitary products too can cause an imbalance in the microbial flora in their vagina resulting in yeast infection for them too.
Also, uncircumcised teenage boys are susceptible to yeast infections courtesy of their foreskin. The foreskin provides a warm, moist area that’s conducive for the overgrowth of the fungus. Most teenagers aren’t very particular about their hygiene at that age, and there’s no way a teen will allow his mom bathe him.
Parents must therefore, endeavor to instruct their teenage sons in the art of proper washing. If they don’t wash anywhere else, teach them to at the very least, wash their armpits and genitals really well, and to keep them dry.
Can Pregnancy Induce Yeast Infections
Pregnancy, while a great experience, can also have its share of discomforts. Apart from the obvious mood swings, occasional health issues, morning sickness, hormonal imbalance and childbirth, there’s also the pesky annoying thing called yeast infection.
You would think that with all the things your body is going through, it would at least have the decency to keep your vag in great shape. Ha, if only that were true. Pregnant women are more susceptible to yeast infection compared to their non-pregnant counterparts.
In fact, women who are in their second trimester will often experience episodes of yeast infection. The good news –not that it is- is that it doesn’t affect the health of the baby and has no impact whatsoever on your pregnancy. The bad news is that it can itch like hell and be a source of major discomfort –as if you need one more.
This happens more because of your body’s estrogen levels. When you’re pregnant, your estrogen levels go higher. This means that your hormonal levels are all out of whack, essentially creating a favorable environment in your vag for the fungus to grow and thrive.
By the way, don’t confuse the thin, white discharge with a distinctive odor frequently observed during the second trimester with yeast infection. That usually never comes with itchiness, burning sensation during urination or intercourse, and all the other symptoms of yeast infection.
Yeast Infection During Menopause
In pretty much the same way it affects girls just entering puberty, yeast infections also affect women in their menopausal years. Again, this is directly linked to the hormonal imbalance experienced during those years.
Unfortunately, this can be a bit of a bother considering that at that point, the woman is dealing with hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and a few other menopausal symptoms. Luckily, not all women will experience this during menopause.
But for those who do, it’s usually because they have lower estrogen levels. Interestingly, women who go for hormone replacement therapies (HTR) to increase their estrogen levels also seem to experience increased instances of vulvovaginal thrush. Thus, it is a bit of a pickle really, and most women just endure while getting proper treatment until they enter their postmenopausal years where the instances are very few, if not completely non-existent.
Diagnostic Procedures for Yeast Infection
Once you find that you you’re infected, visit the hospital immediately. Your doctor will order some tests to properly diagnose your condition and rule out any other health issues or even reactions. The diagnostic process of your OB/GYN or any general practice doctor will often start with asking for your medical history.
If they’re your doctor, they’ll already have this, and will have to just check your file. If you’re new, they’ll take a medical history, carry out a pelvic exam to determine which part of your genitals are infected. In women, that would be the vulva, cervix and vagina.
They may also take a sample of your discharge for testing. You might have to get your vaginal pH tested, or your doctor might request a culture particularly if they aren’t sure that you have just candidiasis alone –it is possible to have two conditions. This is done to determine if you have either the complicated or uncomplicated forms of yeast infection.
For males, they’ll physically examine the swellings, and take samples of discharges to determine if you have yeast infection. As much as possible, avoid self-diagnosis as that can be costly, can exacerbate your condition and lead to even more complications.
As earlier stated, some infections can share similar symptoms. It’s best to have a healthcare provider check you out and give an accurate diagnosis. For instance, it is possible for women with bacterial vaginosis to think they have candidiasis because the symptoms are similar.
The major difference between the two is that the vagina of women suffering from BV tends to produce a fishy smell. Now, someone who isn’t informed will not know this. They might just assume that it’s a chronic yeast infection.
The same applies to guys who might think that the condition will go away by itself. Unfortunately, short of getting the necessary treatment, yeast infection can thrive and stay as long as the environment is favorable.
Luckily, treatment is available and people can get the necessary cure depending on their overall health. People with strong immune system will often get faster results that people with weaker immune systems and other health conditions like uncontrolled diabetes
Yeast Infection Treatment Options
Now that you’re familiar with the causes, symptoms and peculiar circumstances that could trigger candidiasis, it’s time to explore the various treatment options.
In this section, we’ll be looking at multiple treatment methods that are proven to work. These methods will help treat as well as cure the condition, resulting in a more comfortable healthy lifestyle for all infected men and women.
As soon as you observe the itching, discharge, burning and pain, you should get to the hospital immediately for checkup. This is particularly important for first time sufferers. If you’ve had it in the past, chances are that you already know what to take to get the relief you need.
Conventional treatments for uncomplicated yeast infections –these are infections that aren’t tied to other health conditions like diabetes- include the prescription of a vaginal suppository or the ingestion of antifungal pills by the patient. Most of the time, the vaginal suppository will take care of the infection.
Usually, the treatment will involve the insertion of the prescribed pill into the vagina for a duration of 1-7 days, depending on the severity of your case and your gynecologist’s sense of how much you need. Never worry about overkill when it comes to treating candidiasis. It is always better to treat in excess than to treat insufficiently.
If your doctor is inclined towards prescribing the oral pill, chances are that they will prescribe a single dose of fluconazole also known as Diflucan that you can use in one or multiple doses. These are usually recommended when the infection is mild. They also wouldn’t prescribe that for pregnant women as the drug is capable of causing birth defects.
Patients who have complicated yeast infections will often require prolonged, intensive treatment, usually in the form of combined antifungal, ointments, pills and/or vaginal suppositories for a duration of 7-14 days.
Patients will also be placed on infection preventing medications to keep their body’s fungal population low. Patients in this category may be placed on what is known as maintenance therapy to prevent the regrowth of the fungus in the body. This is usually great for people who are immunocompromised or diabetics as they are susceptible to recurrent bouts.
Your doctor may also recommend 2-3 doses of Diflucan to be taken orally if they don’t see the need for you to use vaginal ointments or suppositories. People with extreme infections and undergoing severe discomfort may also get topical ointments or steroids that will provide immediate relief while the antifungal drugs are working. Please note that even when you’re feeling better, make sure to complete the dosage to prevent any recurrence or fungal resistance.
Maintenance treatment protocols will usually be implemented after you’re done with the regular treatment. Most of the time, maintenance therapy will be the administration of oral fluconazole every week for 24 weeks. Please note that this is not typical. Your doctor would be in the best position to recommend the right meds for you.
Over the Counter Medications for Yeast Infection
There’s the temptation to self-diagnose and go for over the counter medications. This is even more so with women. Yet, studies have shown that 2 out of three women who assume they have yeast infection really don’t.
Instead, many have other sexually transmitted infections or bacterial vaginosis. While the medications themselves may not have any side effect or cause any damages, medical experts generally agree that it could cause your body to build up resistance to these drugs, essentially rendering them ineffective when you really need them.
Doctors generally recommend that you avoid buying over the counter antifungal topical creams, ointments, pills and suppositories for the treatment of yeast infection, particularly if you are a first time sufferer.
Most of these medications require no prescriptions as they are readily available in your local Walgreen or pharmacy, hence the tendency for people to want to just go pick up one. People with recurrent yeast infection episodes often know exactly what medications to buy.
But those without the necessary experience should not just assume that they have the infection and go purchase available yeast infection over the counter medications. Some of the medications you’ll get over the counter include clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin), butoconazole (Femstat), terconazole (Terazol), and miconazole (Monistat).
For pregnant women, OTC meds aren’t advisable. Speak with your gynecologist if you have an infection and they’ll recommend the appropriate medication that won’t affect your pregnancy or harm the fetus.
Yeast Infection Prevention Tips
Ultimately the best cure for yeast infections is prevention it in the first place. The following tips will help you prevent the infection in the first place. Please note that there might be instances where it might be difficult to prevent it –like when you’re pregnant or menopausal. Whatever the case, these tips will help you do the best possible to stay safe and without any infections.
- If a partner has it, stay away from every form of intercourse until it clears. This is particularly important for the menfolk. Truth is if you have sex with your infected partner, and they treat the condition, you could re-infect them even when you have no symptoms of infection.
- Now, here’s an unusual tip that has been proven to work: cut out or drastically reduce all forms of sugar for a few days (please consult with your doctor about this if you are diabetic). For some reason, yeast infection thrives in an environment of abundant sugar and cutting out or reducing your sugar intake does help with easing the symptoms. Combined with the requisite treatments, you will be able to effectively eliminate the infection. As you can see, sugars aren’t just bad for your weight, they can be dangerous for your yeasts.
- Teenagers need to start wearing breathable clothing. Yes, we understand that nylons or leather pants might be in vogue right now. But, you really need to allow your privates breathe. The same applies to adults. Wear more cotton based underwear and do an effective job of keeping the place dry.
- Avoid douching and using scented sanitary products. Douching messes with the balance of the microbial flora in your vagina, so do scented soaps.
- Pregnant women should consult with their doctors before these symptoms start showing up. Talk to them about the possibility of the symptoms and ask for preventive measures. In many instances, you may not be able to prevent it, particularly if it’s triggered by hormonal imbalance. However, because you were already aware of the possibility it wouldn’t catch you unawares.
What to Do About Recurrent Yeast Infection Episodes
Recurrent yeast infections can be such a pain in the ass. But they can and do happen. When they do, talk to your doctor about them and take the necessary treatment.
If you have a health condition that affects your immune system, you should be always prepared and take the prevention tips we mentioned above seriously –particularly the tip about sugars. If you’re on a prolonged course of antibiotics, you can expect to have a weak immune system and the accompanying yeast infection.
Also, get your diabetes under control now as that is a clear trigger for candidiasis. Women who are on contraceptives too, and are experiencing frequent bouts of candidiasis would do well to see if they can switch to a more “friendly” contraceptive.
Studies have shown that women who are on oral contraceptive or contraceptive devices like intrauterine device (IUD), diaphragms and other contraceptives have a higher risk of suffering yeast infection.
While it is not officially categorized as a sexually transmitted disease, people can still get when they have sex with infected partners –even if the partners are without any symptoms. So, if you have a sexual partner, make sure they are also treated for fungus, even when you use condoms.
It is possible for the fungus to colonize their genitals –usually at the base of the penis- thus ensuring that if you have sex with the same person even after treatment, the same strain of fungus will be reintroduced to your body.
There you have it… everything there is to know about yeast infection. You don’t have to suffer anymore. You can get rid of that pesky little inconvenience and live free, without any worries. Use the information in this guide wisely.
Share it with your friends, family and loved ones. Spread it around and let people be informed. We hope that this guide has helped you get the best treatment possible for yeast infection. Good luck.