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What is a Yeast Infection?

By C. Ausbrooks
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A yeast infection, also known as candidiasis, is an infection caused by microscopic fungi or yeast, known as Candida. These fungi live on the entire surface of the human body, but in some cases become so numerous that they can cause an infection. The infection typically occurs in moist, warm areas of the body, including the mouth or genitals. The most common types of Candida infections are found in the vagina, mouth, and throat.

Vaginal yeast infections develop when the environment of the vagina changes in some way, and the yeast already present is multiplied enough to cause infection. Some of the most frequent causes of a vaginal Candida infection include using antibiotics or steroids, pregnancy, menstruation, and certain types of birth control. Wearing clothing that is too tight for long periods of time, or even an injury to the vagina may also cause a Candida infection in some women. Symptoms of a vaginal Candida infection include burning, soreness, itching, pain during intercourse or urination, and a thick, white, odorless vaginal discharge.

Yeast infections in the mouth and throat, also known as thrush, are most frequent amongst infants and the elderly. Thrush causes a buildup of thick, white plaque on the tongue, which sometimes resembles milk curds. In some cases, the tongue may appear red without the white patches. This type of Candida infection is painful, and causes difficultly eating and swallowing.

In adults, yeast infections can also occur around dentures, under the breasts or in other folds of skin, and in the nailbeds. These infections are usually not serious, and can be cleared up easily with treatment. Treatment for Candida will vary depending on the type and severity of the infection.

Vaginal yeast infections can be treated with over the counter medications found in drug stores and pharmacies. If the infection lasts for more than one week, or does not improve, it may be necessary to see a doctor for prescription medication. Thrush requires a trip to the doctor, and a prescription anti-fungal mouthwash. Adults with thrush also have the option of taking anti-fungal lozenges or pills to get rid of the infection. For Candida infections that affect the skin or nailbed, creams and lotions prescribed by a doctor are used.

If the proper treatment is administered, most yeast infections can be cleared without any further complications. Most vaginal, oral, and skin infections are resolved within two weeks. If the patient has a weakened immune system due to disease, the infection may return again or become difficult to treat.

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Discussion Comments
By anon31786 — On May 11, 2009

I would recommend seeing a Gynecologist if you are concerned you might have some type of yeast infection. Urine tests are accurate for some things, but a Pap Smear may be required for more in depth analysis, particularly if it's related to your reproductive system.

As for your toenails, that wouldn't be related, but it sounds like a fungal infection. See a regular doctor or a podiatrist for more information on treatment options - and to get a definite diagnosis.


By anon31730 — On May 11, 2009

Does this sound like some form of fungal infection?

My toe nails are going an odd weird color like a yellowish, they are all messed up or anything. I get discharge but so do most women, and I get discomfort in my lower abdomen a lot. I have had urine tests done before but nothing seems to come up. I've also always wondered if maybe I have a weak immune system or maybe diabetes? As a few people in my family have this disease.

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