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Prevention and Treatment of Yeast Infections (Candidiasis) - Thrush - Candida
Introduction to Prevention and Treatment of Yeast Infections (Candidiasis) - Thrush - Candida
The prevention and treatment of yeast infections is usually pretty simple.
In fact, most of the time we prevent them just fine without even thinking about it. However, if you're prone to yeast infections, knowing how to minimize your chances of getting another one generally becomes a priority in life pretty quickly, as does identifying the symptoms to deliver treatment for the yeast infection as soon as possible.
Candida microorganisms, the little things that cause yeast infections, are everywhere in our environment. They're on our skin, in our intestines, in the air we breathe and on the food we eat.
The yeast that causes yeast infections is not the same species as the ones used to raise bread and brew beer, but it's just as ubiquitous - common - in the environment. There's no getting away from Candida, so the only solution is to give it nowhere to grow and treat any yeast infection quickly.
Prevention of yeast infection focuses on making your body unfriendly to Candida and to avoid contact with the multicellular invasive form of the yeast.
Yeast infection treatment, on the other hand, must both make the body less friendly to the Candida yeasts and kill off the yeast itself. Therefore, many of the same techniques to prevent yeast infection are used to treat Candida at home, along with an antifungal medication to treat the yeast infection itself.
Causes of Yeast Infections (Candidiasis) - Thrush - Candida
Yeast infections can be caused by a lot of different things. Because Candida organisms are so pervasive in the environment, whether or not you get a yeast infection is dependent on how well your body can fight it off. Such simple things as tight clothing or lack of ventilation to an area can create good conditions for a Candida infection. On the other hand, recurrent Candida infections can also be a sign of more dangerous health problems, so it's important to eliminate all the causes within your control.
As stated previously, Candida microorganisms exist almost everywhere. Under normal circumstances, a Candida organism is a quiet, single celled organism that doesn't reproduce very fast at all. However, if it gets the opportunity, through more food, a better environment or less competition, Candida will change from its single celled form into an invasive multicelled form. When this happens, you have a yeast infection.
The most common reason for a yeast infection is a physical imbalance of some kind. Yeast infections start because of immune compromise. The innate immune system, which is always on, can also be thwarted rather easily. Tight underwear, skin that doesn't see air very often or irritating deodorants or perfumes can all set up good conditions for yeast infections. In addition, your immune system can easily be compromised by a poor diet, lack of sleep, insufficient exercise or excessive stress.
Several diseases can seriously compromise the body's defenses as well. Of course, HIV/AIDS specializes in taking down an immune system, that's what makes that particular disease so deadly after all. Leukemia generally produces problems with the immune system as well. While there aren't too many diseases out there that directly attack the immune systme, diabetes mellitus can circumvent it by raising the blood glucose levels to the point where Candida has plenty of sugar to feed on. Being a yeast, of course, Candida eats sugar of all varieties, including starches like breads. Carbohydrates are simply more complicated sugars than the sugars that produce a sweet taste.
Some medications create immune system problems as well. Corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories both directly modulate the immune system, scaling it down to reduce inflammation. Antibiotics kill off the normal bacteria that compete with Candida yeasts, giving them a wide open field and no competition. Birth control, hormone therapy and menopause all change the environment of the vagina, leaving women open to vulvovaginal yeast infections.
Symptoms of Yeast Infections (Candidiasis) - Thrush - Candida
Yeast infections produce different symptoms depending on where in the body they happen. A vaginal yeast infection will produce a different set of symptoms from a male genital yeast infection, which are both different from oral and skin yeast infections. Regardless of where on the body they show up, if you get more than four yeast infections in a year's time, technically speaking you have a problem with recurrent yeast infections.
If you have this problem, first go through and eliminate all the causes you can. If you still have problems with frequent yeast infections, go to your doctor to look for a deeper problem. Yeast infections are what's known as opportunistic, which means they get in whenever a chink is opened in your body's defense systems. If you've eliminated all the causes you can think of, there may be an underlying health disorder you need to be aware of.
Testing for Yeast Infections (Candidiasis) - Thrush - Candida
Testing for a yeast infection needs to be done in a doctor's office. There are no over the counter or at home tests today that can be called reliable, I'm afraid. The most reliable form of yeast infection test is for your doctor to take a swab of the infected area, put a bit of dye on it, and look at it under a microscope. A yeast infection will produce a characteristic branching pattern with the dye, a side effect of that multicellular invasive form I mentioned above. Simply testing for Candida won't do, as Candida is present for much of the time without causing a yeast infection per se.
An SED (sedimentation rate) test doesn't exactly prove a yeast infection either. This sort of test only looks at whether there is inflammation in the body and how bad that inflammation is, not what caused the inflammation. Basically, this test measures how fast red blood cells separate from the blood in a test tube. The more inflammation you have, the faster red blood cells fall out of suspension. It's often used to measure the body's response to a particular infection or medication once the problem is known, but is not a determining diagnositic test in and of itself.
Treatment of Yeast Infections (Candidiasis) - Thrush - Candida
Once you know you have an active yeast infection, you'll probably need an antifungal to get rid of it. A yeast infection can sometimes clear up on its own, but it takes longer and requires a lot more attention to detail. If you want to go the all natural way, follow the tips for prevention, let the area open to air often if appropriate (don't sit there with your mouth open, for instance), and make sure you give your immune system all the help you can. Eat unsweetened yogurt for your daily dairy servings and keep a balanced diet otherwise. It may help to limit your intake of starch, sugar and alcohol, but there aren't any "superfoods" you can eat, only that which goes into a nutritional diet. In addition, you may want to take either acidophilus pills or liquid, often available at health food stores. If either yogurt or pure acidophilus don't help or make the problem worse, go see a doctor. Skin yeast infections can be treated with topical astringents such as witch hazel solution, while oral yeast infections are often helped with a regular program of tooth brushing. If you're suffering from a genital yeast infection, don't put anything irritating on or in your genitalia.
However, if you don't want to suffer that long and aren't opposed to medication on general principle, there are several antifungal medications out there that can help. Some are in cream form, meant to be used on the skin or the genitalia, while others are oral tablets. Many of the creams and suppositories can be gotten over the counter, but most of the oral kind need a prescription. Oral yeast infections can also be treated with mouthwashes or lozenges, again usually by prescription.
The reason that most oral anti-fungals are prescription only is because they can cause liver damage. An antifungal you put on your skin isn't going to get to your liver very much, but an oral medication goes straight there. For this reason, a doctor has to monitor oral antifungals and do appropriate liver tests if he or she thinks they're warranted. If you have to take antifungals often or if you already have liver problems, then your doctor will want to monitor you very closely. In addition, Candida can develop a resistance to antifungals over time if not taken properly. This makes doctors jumpy, especially when it comes to the more powerful antifungals available by prescription. What would we do if our more powerful weapons became useless?
If a child or infant has an oral yeast infection and needs medicine, put the medicine on a cotton swab and wipe onto the area instead of putting a dropper in the child's mouth. Throw the swab away immediately after use. The reason that you don't want to use a dropper directly in the child's mouth is to prevent yeast spreading as much as possible. If the baby is breast-feeding, both Mom and baby need treatment for a yeast infection to keep from passing it back and forth. The baby will probably get a mild, child friendly antifungal oral medication while Mom will get an antifungal cream for the nipples. If the baby is bottle fed or uses a pacifier, wash bottles and pacifiers well and rinse in equal parts vinegar and water after each and every use until the infection is cleared up. If the child is old enough, he or she can also eat unsweetened yogurt to help get the body's natural microorganisms sorted out again.
If a baby or child has a genital or diaper area yeast infection, they need to see the pediatrician. Do not use adult antifungal creams on children, the dosage is all wrong and the medication may not be good for kids anyway. A doctor must prescribe an appropriate dosage of an appropriate medication in order to deal with the problem without endangering the child. What you can do at home is change diapers frequently, let the kid go without a diaper from time to time, and wash cloth diapers well in hot water and gentle detergent.
General Prevention of Yeast Infections (Candidiasis) - Thrush - Candida
Full body methods of preventing a yeast infection are important no matter what kind of yeast infections you're prone to. It keeps your yeast infection gone instead of simply migrating. Eat a well balanced diet, get enough sleep at night, work a program of decent exercise into your life and eliminate as much stress as possible. Take a daily supplement that can fill in any holes in your diet. Eliminate or manage any diseases you may suffer from, such as diabetes. Get your metabolism in order as much as possible. Don't share clothing, towels, washcloths or toothbrushes with other people. Try changing laundry detergents, soaps and perfumes, or just eliminate dyes and fragrances from your life as much as possible. Avoid using corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and antibiotics as much as possible. If you do everything you can to prevent a yeast infection and you still keep getting them, go see your doctor as your body may be trying to tell you something.
Babies should be breast-fed if possible, at least for the first six months when the breast milk contains Mom's antibodies to fortify the baby's immune system. In addition, breast milk is the most nutritionally complete food for babies under a year of age, and contains many benefits even beyond that.
Preventing Genital Yeast Infections
To prevent genital yeast infections in both men and women, wash the area with mild soap during the daily shower. Rinse well, and make sure the area is completely dry before getting dressed. Both genders should wear loose cotton underwear to wick excess moisture away, and wash that underwear in hot water. Avoid clothing with tight crotch areas. Always change out of swimsuits or exercise clothing promptly after finishing, and again, make sure the area is dry before re-dressing.
There are some extra precautions for women, as women tend to get yeast infections more often. When menstruating, change sanitary pads and/or tampons frequently, and try to find ones without scent. Don't use douches or feminine hygiene products, as these can upset the natural balance of the vulvovaginal area. Also avoid the use of spermicide as much as possible, as nonoxynol-9 can make Candida infections more likely, but do use a water based lubricant during sex if one is needed. Don't use petroleum jelly instead, as petroleum jelly weakens condoms and makes a good disease vector. Avoid sex if it feels painful or if you're not enjoying it because a lack of natural lubrication will irritate the vaginal tissues and make a yeast infection more likely. If you're using hormonal birth control and you keep getting yeast infections, consider switching to a non-hormonal variety of birth control instead.
For children prone to diaper area yeast infections, be sure that diapers and underwear are changed often. Chronically damp or moist underthings provide a great environment for yeast infections. If possible, leave diapers and underwear off from time to time. Of course, make sure that all clothing and linens are washed promptly and in hot water with gentle soap.
Preventing Oral Yeast Infections
If instead you're trying to prevent recurring oral infections, do be sure to keep up on your dental hygiene. Brush your teeth properly twice per day, floss in the evening and use an antiseptic mouthwash. If you have braces, dentures or oral piercings, find a mouthwash that doesn't include alcohol among its ingredients. Always wash hands well before and after brushing or flossing.
If you're taking liquid antibiotics or using an asthma inhaler such as albuterol, be sure and wash your mouth out after each dose. This will keep the medicine from disturbing the natural balance of your mouth as much as possible
To avoid oral thrush in babies, wash bottles, nipples and pacifiers daily in hot water. Keep any and all prepared bottles in the refrigerator when not in use, and do not re-use a bottle that has sat for more than an hour after the baby last drank from it. If a bottle sits too long after it's been in a baby's mouth, it can pick up yeast, allow it to grow and then give it back to the baby. If the child is particularly prone to oral thrush, boil all objects that baby has had in the mouth for 20 minutes or run it through the heating cycle on the dishwasher.
Prevention and Treatment of Yeast Infections (Candidiasis) - Thrush - Candida in Conclusion
Yeast infections are no fun, and even less so if you suffer from them on a regular basis. However, recurrent or constant yeast infections are not a normal part of the human condition. Recurrent yeast infections are a sign that something is wrong. Eliminate the causes and you eliminate the yeast infection.
References used for Prevention and Treatment of Yeast Infections (Candidiasis) - Thrush - Candida
Center for Disease Control, Infectious Disease Guidelines
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