How To Prevent A Yeast Infection

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Both women and men can develop a yeast infection, however, this is more common among women, normally referring to a yeast infection of the vagina. Though, men are susceptible to infection of the genitals and mouth too. Women are more likely to develop a vaginal yeast infection, also called Candida vaginitis or vulvovaginal candidiasis. Some 75% of women experience such an infection at least once in their lifetime, with 40% of women having it more often. Furthermore, 5 to 8% will have a yeast infection in chronic form, with multiple infections annually. Treatment takes three days to a full week. If it lasts over 7 days, a doctor should be consulted (1, 2).

One form of this infection does not attack genitals, but areas of the skin that are warm and moist, such as the groin and armpits. This condition is called cutaneous candidiasis. Irrespective of where the fungus has taken hold, if it enters the bloodstream it may lead to invasive candidiasis, which can prove lethal, being able to move to the liver and lungs, negatively affecting the heart valves.

What Is A Yeast Infection?

Photo of Candida AlbicansThis type of infection is caused mainly by a fungus called Candida albicans. It may, however, be caused by other types of Candida species such as Candida glabrata, Candida parapsilosis, Candida tropicalis, and Candida krusei. Furthermore, the condition is not solely fungal, bacteria also involved. The bacterium lactobacillus, producing acid to keep the yeast under control can go out of balance for various reasons, resulting in an overgrowth of yeast. This overgrowth presents as a symptom of this condition.

Take Home Note:
A yeast infection is caused by an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria. The overgrowth leads to the condition developing.

What Are The Symptoms?

The symptoms of a yeast infection may include itching and irritation of the genitals; a burning feeling, especially when urinating; swelling and redness; pain in the genital area; a rash, as well as a watery or thick discharge.

Take Home Note:
Various symptoms may be identified. A doctor will either examine the affected area or ask questions that identify the symptoms.

What Causes This Condition?

Doctor explaining diagnosis to her female patientThe overgrowth of yeast may result from the consumption of antibiotics, pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes, a weak and compromised immune system, such as from HIV or over-use of steroids, as well as hormones and oral contraceptives that increase oestrogen levels. In addition, sexual interaction such as oral to genital contact, may also lead to this condition. However, this condition is not necessarily the result of any sexual activity (3, 4).

Take Home Note:
There are various reasons for yeast infections developing, dictating in part how the condition will be treated. However, what is important to note is that, even though this condition may be transmitted sexually, this is not a sexually-transmitted disease. In most cases, it results from an imbalance of bacteria in the affected area.

The Treatment

The treatment will depend on how complicated or severe the yeast infection is. If, for instance, the condition is uncomplicated, then prescribed creams, tablets and other antifungal measures may be used for between one to seven days. Alternatively, oral medication may be prescribed. Thirdly, over-the-counter treatments, such as creams, may be used. If the condition is complicated, a longer treatment plan is need, mostly taking up to 2 weeks. Medication may be prescribed, from creams to pills. Alternatively, a longer treatment plan is needed, if the condition has become chronic. However, the idea is to stop the infection. For instance, if caused by sexual intercourse, the use of condoms could prevent reinfection (5).

Take Home Note:
The severity of the condition will dictate the type of treatment and the length to be taken. If the yeast infection is uncomplicated, the treatment lasts up to a week; a complicated case will require a treatment period of up to two weeks.

How Can You Prevent A Yeast Infection?

Cup of Probiotic YogurtUnderstanding this condition and its causes leads to effective treatment. However, avoiding certain conditions and attire can help minimize the risk of developing a yeast infection. These include not wearing very tight underwear, using only cotton underwear, as well as loose-fitting clothes. Wearing wet clothes can also contribute to a yeast infection developing as it provides the perfect environment for the yeast to flourish. Extremely hot baths and hot tubs should be avoided. In addition, antibiotics should be limited (6). The genitals should be kept clean and dry to reduce infections. Probiotic yogurt or probiotic supplements can help to maintain a good probiotic balance. One substance effective in relieving a yeast infection is tea tree oil, an antifungal oil which may be applied to unbroken skin (7).

Take Home Note:
Wearing cotton underwear, loose-fitting clothing, and avoiding wearing wet underwear can help reduce the chances of you developing a yeast infection.

Our Ultimate Take-Home Message

A yeast infection can occur in both sexes, however, it is more common among women. Over half of all females will develop such an infection in their lifetime. In addition, this condition is caused by an imbalance of bacteria, the good bacteria outnumbered by bad bacteria, causing an overproduction of yeast. Various factors may be to blame, ranging from excess moisture, to the use of antibiotics, or even sexual intercourse as a trigger. Treatment is simple, ranging from creams, pills, to a change of habits. Nevertheless, the creams and pills may have to be prescribed if the condition is serious; if not, over-the-counter solutions may be used. It is always best to consult a doctor on first noticing the problem.

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