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Yeast Infection Frequently Asked Questions
What is a yeast infection?
A yeast infection is an overgrowth of yeast microorganisms commonly found on and around the body. Eliminating these yeast organisms in their entirety is almost impossible, but they usually go unnoticed.
Only when the body's internal balance shifts enough to allow their quick multiplication do they cause a yeast infection per se.
What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?
The symptoms of a yeast infection vary depending where on or in the body it occurs.
Yeast infections on mucus membranes such as the inside of the mouth or around the female genitalia tend to produce white to off-white plaques and/or discharge, while yeast infections of the skin tend to show up as reddish, irritated patches of skin with scalloped edges.
What are yeasts?
Yeasts are a form of fungus.
The yeasts that cause yeast infections, members of the Candida family, are found as normal intestinal flora in the vast majority of people.
They usually live in competitive balance with the natural bacteria of the body, but if one or the other is killed off in great quantities, the remaining microorganism can get out of control.
Is the yeast in a yeast infection the same as yeast in bread?
The yeasts that cause yeast infections are not the same family of yeasts used to make bread, wine or beer.
The yeast used in bread machines, for instance, is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, not Candida albicans, the most common culprit of yeast infections.
Therefore, eating bread or drinking alcohol will not add more yeast to a yeast infections, although the simple and complex sugars found in starch and alcohol can feed Candida yeasts and make an infection worse.
Can men get a yeast infection?
Yes, they can.
Men obviously cannot suffer from a vulvovaginal yeast infection, not having a set of female genitals, but Candida yeasts can easily infect the delicate skin and membranes around male genitalia.
The symptoms are often different from vaginal yeast infections and sometimes there are no symptoms at all.
In addition, men can get oral, skin or mucus membrane thrush as easily as anyone else.
For this reason, it's important for men to get treated for yeast infections should a sexual partner suffer from one.
If the woman's problem is cleared up with medication and the man's isn't, he can give the yeast infection right back to her.
Can you get a yeast infection from naproxen (Aleve)?
You can't get a yeast infection directly from naproxen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory often sold under the brand name Aleve.
Naproxen does not contain any yeast organisms, and so it's impossible for naproxen to "infect" someone.
That being said, naproxen, like other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, works to modify the immune system in order to decrease inflammation. If it reduces the immune system's effectiveness in keeping infection out too much, a yeast infection can take advantage of the chink in the body's defenses.
Because of this, any NSAID can contribute to a yeast infection if taken for long enough.
Can you get a yeast infection from birth control such as Nuva Ring?
Any birth control method that relies on female hormones can contribute to a yeast infection.
Hormonal birth control methods work by raising the estrogen level within the female body, which causes the interior environment of the vagina to change.
This change may be enough to create a better environment for the Candida yeast to thrive, which results in a vaginal yeast infection.
What percentage of which races get yeast infections?
At this point, there's some significant problems finding out if there is any correlation between race and likelihood of suffering yeast infections.
There are apparently a lot of people out there asking what percentage of Filipinos or what percentage of people with African or Caucasian descent will most likely suffer from yeast infections, but race does not seem to be a major indicator.
Candida yeasts are found literally all over the world, and no one "race" can claim any more or less immunity than any other.
Internal balance, lack of stress, and a properly functioning immune system are the most important factors for avoiding a yeast infection.
If someone has a genetic tendency to physical stress or a genetic tendency to a poor immune system, then obviously that person will probably have more problems with yeast infections than someone who does not.
However, no genetic correlation has ever been found between these genetic tendencies and race or origin.
Is there an interaction between hypogammaglobulinemia and yeast infections?
Hypogammaglobulinemia is defined as the lack of one or more of the five classes of antibodies or immunoglobulins caused by the defective function of a particular class of white blood cells (B lymphocytes). It's considered a symptom of one of the twenty to thirty specific immune disorders lumped under the term "common variable immunodeficiency." Because it negatively affects the immune system, people who suffer from it are more likely to acquire a variety of infections, from bacterial to viral to, yes, yeast infections.
Because this disorder does greatly suppress the immune system, people who have it are much more likely to develop a severe, systemic yeast infection, known as candidemia, that requires immediate and comprehensive medical care. Therefore, any simple yeast infection should be treated at the earliest symptom to avoid this potentially fatal complication.
Can you get a yeast infection while breastfeeding?
The short answer is yes, you can.
The long answer is that while nipples aren't the most likely site for developing a yeast infections, newborn mouths are almost perfect environments.
Alternatively, the nipples aren't accustomed to being wet very often, and a frequently feeding newborn can create the perfect environment to develop a yeast infection on Mom's nipples and then pick it up from there.
If a newborn baby develops a yeast infection in the mouth, often referred to as oral thrush, then the baby can give Mom a yeast infection of the nipples.
Unless Mom and newborn are treated simultaneously, they can keep giving the yeast infection back and forth to each other.
What's the best nipple care during breastfeeding to avoid a yeast infection?
If Mom and baby both don't currently have a yeast infection, the best way to avoid getting one is to let the nipples dry in the open air after each feeding.
While this may not always be socially acceptable when out in public, letting Mom's chest go bare after feeding at home is a great idea.
Don't wash the nipples with soap and water after each feeding, soaping the area can remove important oils secreted by the nipple that are meant to sterilize and clean the area in a way that's safe for baby.
A simple rinse with plain water is often enough for hygiene's sake.
During showers use plain, mild, unscented soap that's free from dyes. Don't use moisturizers on the nipples that may be unsafe for baby to ingest. There are a variety of balms out there considered suitable for nursing mothers, such as ultrapurified lanolin.
Gentian violet has been recommended in the past for use on breastfeeding mother's nipples in the event of a yeast infection.
It's worth noting that gentian violet has nothing to do with violets and is not an herbal extract of any kind.
It's also known as crystal violet, Methyl Violet 10B, and hexamethyl pararosaniline chloride.
It's a chemical preparation used widely as an antifungal agent in the last century and is still used as a dye in many medical tests.
It's generally considered to be relatively safe for newborns, but frequent or preventative use is not recommended as high or frequent doses have been shown to cause ulcer sores in the mouths and throats of newborns.
Large doses over time have been linked to various forms of cancer. While it's considered to be safe by most pediatricians, use sparingly.
Can you get a yeast infection at the same time as a bacterial infection?
Again, the short answer is yes.
It is eminently possible to get a bacterial infection and a yeast infection at the same time.
However, they probably won't develop in the same place until one or both infections reach a serious level.
For instance, it's possible to have a bacterial infection of the lungs (bacterial bronchitis) and a genital yeast infection simultaneously.
However, there's not much of a likelihood of developing bacterial vaginosis and a vaginal yeast infection at the same time as the two organisms compete for food and space. One will usually drive the other out.
This idea goes straight out the window in the event of immunocompromise. If the immune system is compromised, it's no longer providing the body's own competition to either bacteria or yeasts. All of the body's resources are open for yeast and bacteria both to feed on, and both can get into the blood or anywhere else in the body.
That means that bacteria and candida can survive quite pleasantly next to each other until both populations get so large they can't help but compete.
In the event of an immune system compromise, that point of competition for food and space may not come until after the death of the person in question.
This is one of the crippling health effects that immunocompromised people have to deal with on a regular basis that the rest of us do not. Because of it, if you have a compromised immune system due to medications, genetic problems or active disease such as HIV/AIDS, you need to be aware of and quickly address the symptoms of any given infection with highest priority.
References used for this yeast Infection FAQ page
Taber's Medical Encyclopedia
Dorland's Medical Dictionary, Douglas M. Anderson et al., Saunders, May 2007
Littlefield et al., "Chronic Toxicity and Carcinogenicity Studies of Gentian Violet in Mice" Toxicol. Sci. 5: 902-912.
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