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Yeast Infections, Aging, and the Old, Elderly and Frail
Introduction to Yeast Infections, Aging, and the Old and Elderly
Unfortunately, it seems that the older people get, the more likely they are to get yeast infections.
Why should this be?
You're healthy for your entire life, but then get afflicted with itchy, miserable yeast infections on top of any other health problems that develop.
Fortunately, there are some concrete reasons why yeast infections affect older people, and these reasons are often easy to counter.
Causes of yeast infections in old, aged and elderly.
Unfortunately, as you get older your immune system does too.
While you have complete immune system libraries of every invader that's ever tried getting into your body, your immune system often changes as you get older.
This is referred to as immune sensescence, and it results from the loss of some immune actions and the increase of others.
It often leads the immune system to produce inappropriate responses or to be inefficient in going after invaders.
Sometimes the immune responses even become detrimental to your overall health.
T cells have a harder time killing off dangerous cells, and the number and quality of B cells to produce antibodies goes down.
This means that you're a lot more open to infection with the opportunistic yeast organisms that are pervasive in the environment.
In addition to the basic immune system problem, as you age your body gets less resilient overall.
Cells take longer to reproduce, digestion gets less efficient, and you often have less bodily reserves overall to fight off infection with.
Older people often have problems regulating their internal temperatures and are ever more vulnerable to a variety of infections.
Repeated infections with common viruses such as the common cold can decrease the body's reserves to fight off yeast infections, and many elderly people suffer from such repeat problems.
As the body gets older, the liver and kidney also often don't work as well as they used to.
This puts an inordinate amount of strain on the body because it has to deal with higher toxin levels circulating in the blood and within organs and tissues.
The liver and kidneys also perform important functions in breaking down and metabolizing out infected cells, so decreasing hepatic or renal function seriously hampers the body in fighting off yeast infections from the most common sites of infection.
Elderly people also tend to have surgery for one thing or another slightly more frequently.
If you have to have several surgeries in a row to deal with a hip that's not working anymore or a series of coronary bypass surgeries, you can bet that your natural reserves are going to get used up in a hurry.
Any surgery is traumatic to the body by nature, it's not something that even the most skilled surgeon can get around.
If immune system responses are drained dealing with the shock and trauma of surgery, they're not available to fight off yeasts or bacteria.
Of course, diseases such as diabetes mellitus contribute to yeast infections as well.
Type II diabetes, also known as severe insulin resistance, is a health problem often endured by elderly people for one reason or another.
The most common culprit is a lifelong diet of high sugars and starches that led the body to develop resistance to high insulin levels, but type II diabetes can develop for a variety of reasons. No matter what caused it, diabetes leads to higher levels of glucose in the blood and interferes with other aspects of the metabolism.
Yeast infections love to feed on high glucose blood levels, so this is a frequent underlying cause of recurrent yeast infections.
Senior citizenship often seems to come fully equipped with a list of medications as long as your arm.
Many of these medications can make yeast infections much more likely.
Hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women creates a higher glycogen level in the vaginal canal, making vulvovaginal yeast infections much more likely.
Non steroidal anti-inflammatories prescribed for chronic pain or corticosteroids for asthma modulate the response of the immune system and leave a chink open.
Broad-spectrum antibiotics given for bacterial infections disturb the internal balance of microorganisms and give yeasts a chance to invade and infect.
If you've eliminated all other causes and keep suffering from yeast infections, you may want to look at your current medications with your doctor and see if there's anything that can be done.
Denture wearers often suffer from oral yeast infections for a variety of reasons.
Most dentures have plenty of places for Candida to hide and grow in until it's numerous enough to cause an infection.
If you wear dentures, it's important to clean, soak and air them well on a daily basis to keep oral yeast from making you miserable.
Elderly people also react even less well to stress than yonger adults, and seniors have so much to experience stress over.
First off, it can be hard for some elderly people to accept the fact of their aging itself.
I've heard the quote, "Inside every old person is a young person wondering what the heck happened."
As people get older, those they meet, often react differently to them or treat them with a patronizing degree of prejudice. A disjunct between how an elderly person sees him or herself and how others perceive and judge him or her is a huge source of psychological stress.
Many aging people also have to deal with the immense psychological strain of experiencing the death of people they love. The death of friends, relatives, schoolmates and spouses all leave an older person both stressed and alone.
They often experience a great deal of stress from contemplating their own death and its potential nearness, and there are less people in the world who understand the world that they grew up in.
Elderly people also have to accept and face many more health problems than younger adults. Any serious health problem is a stressful thing to deal with, and the elderly get so many more of them.
Changes in lifestyle and activities enforced by health problems can be a blow, as can dealing with the idea that life has permanently changed and the health problem won't get better.
I've had to help an elderly relative of mine face the idea that he would never be able to live without assistance again, but that didn't mean he was useless or that his life was over. It was a months long series of conversations that's still not done to this day.
All of these sources of stress put strain on the body and the immune system, opening the way for a multitude of opportunistic infections.
Yeast infections are some of the early warning signs that the immune system is not where it should be.
Yeast infections tend to be quite common in nursing homes and hospitals, and contagion is easy.
Candida yeasts are both hardy and found throughout the environment, including within the intestines of many people. If one person in a ward gets a yeast infection, without proper and extremely strict hygiene it's probable that others nearby will be affected as well.
Of course, people who are living in a hospital or nursing home are also frequently bedridden. Because of the lack of air to the skin, bedridden people often develop bed sores that can serve as perfect hosts to yeast infections.
The parts of the body in constant contact with the bed and the folds of skin that don't move often both provide perfect environments for yeasts to move in and multiply.
Unfortunately, there's another cause of consistent yeast infections in elderly people I have to put in here. It's a sad thing that some elderly people are unable to communicate very well but it's even more terrible that these people are open to abuse of all kinds.
If an older person is unable to communicate due to Alzheimer's, senility, stroke or something else, and he or she keeps suffering from recurrent yeast infections, look for elder abuse.
It can take the form of neglect, which will most often show up as infected bedsores from lack of care.
It can also take the form of direct sexual abuse, which can appear as sexually transmitted diseases or recurrent genital yeast infections. It turns my stomach to have to warn about these problems, but it would be worse to fail to warn about them.
Symptoms of yeast infection in the old and elderly
Elderly people can suffer from any form of yeast infection, including skin, oral, genital and even systemic if they suffer from a seriously compromised immune system.
Skin yeast infections generally cause a series of red patches with scalloped edges, often with one large patch and smaller satellite patches.
Yeast infections on mucous membranes such as the mouth or within the vagina will have either whitish patches or a whitish, curd like discharge with redness, swelling, itching, burning and pain alongside. These symptoms should be carefully watched for, treated promptly and consistently monitored to avoid contracting a systemic yeast infection.
If a local yeast infection progresses to a systemic yeast infection in an elderly person, it will most likely be fatal.
Treatment and Prevention of yeast infection in the old, aged and elderly
The first and most important method to fighting off geriatric yeast infections is to live a healthy lifestyle for as long as possible.
Many older people need a lot more sleep than younger adults, so give yourself permission to take naps.
Make sure you're getting good nutrition and do supplement with appropriate vitamins.
Develop a suitable exercise plan if possible, preferably one that doesn't place undue strain on joints, bones and muscles.
Of course, if you have any chronic health problems, you must commit to managing them as well as possible.
In addition, manage your medications well.
If a disease or medication is causing you problems, get involved with your health care and talk to your doctor to find if there's a better way to deal with it.
If you're stuck in bed much of the time, make sure the people who help you with everyday life also help you get enough air to your skin.
Treat bedsores as open gateways to infection, not as something to be ignored for as long as possible.
Try and make sure that all of your skin gets exposed to open air for a significant period every day.
In addition, as being stuck in bed is stressful in and of itself, make sure you have lots of activities to keep your mind occupied and plenty of pleasant experiences.
Elderly people often need to be more careful than others about hygiene.
Be sure and wash all underwear, washcloths and towels in hot water with mild soap.
Eliminate harsh soaps, dyes and perfumes from your laundry, your bathing and your toilet paper.
Wash hands often, dry well and use a good moisturizer to keep from getting chapped skin.
Conclusion on yeast infection in the aged, elderly and frail
While some elderly people won't be able to completely eliminate yeast infections from their lives, most can.
Appropriate education, a healthy lifestyle and monitoring should decrease or even completely cure yeast infection problems in the vast majority of cases.
In addition, there is no reason to suffer yeast infections in silence.
While you may be aging, that doesn't mean that your quality of life has to suffer needlessly.
References used for Yeast Infection, Menopause and Hormone Therapy
Senior citizenship often seems to come fully equipTaber's Medical Encyclopedia
Fanello S. ; Bouchara J.-P. ; Jousset N. (1) ; Delbos V. (1) ; Leflohic A.-M. (3) "Nosocomial Candida albicans acquisition in a geriatric unit : epidemiology and evidence for person-to-person transmission".The Journal of Hospital Infection 2001, vol. 47, no1, pp. 46-52 (34 ref.) ISSN 0195-6701
The Merck Manual of Geriatrics
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