Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of a yeast species called Candida albicans. Candida normally lives in our bodies harmlessly in a healthy balance with other microorganisms. Negative symptoms associated with a yeast infection only occur if this natural balance is lost and the Candida multiples out of control into an outbreak. Yeast infections mostly take hold in moist, damp, airless and dark parts of the body such as the genital area (in both men and women) the mouth, throat and intestinal tract.
Research has highlighted a number of risk factors that may result in a Candida overgrowth, but it is not always possible to pinpoint an individual causal agent for every instance of an infection. Candida outbreaks are often associated with the following:
- A prolonged or excessive use of antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy bacteria in the body, some of which help to keep the Candida yeast under control.
- Steroid use (for example prednisone or certain asthma inhalants) is thought to be a cause of yeast infection, possibly due to the elevated sugar levels that can result in the blood. Yeasts feed on sugar and multiply more quickly in high sugar environments.
- Diabetes, again due to high blood sugar levels
- Hormonal changes associated with (say) pregnancy, menopause and the birth control pill. Fluctuating hormone levels may alter the chemical balance in the body creating the conditions for yeast growth.
- An unbalanced diet with high levels of sugar, carbohydrates and alcohol. (Carbohydrates and alcohol break down into sugars during the digestive process)
- A compromised immune system can result in higher incidence of the disease.
- The use of highly perfumed soaps or other irritants on areas of the body conducive to yeast infections such as the genital area. Wearing damp or synthetic underpants that restrict airflow can also create the conditions for yeasts to grow.
- Sharing clothing or towels with infected people.
- Sexual activity with an infected partner in the case of genital thrush. (Note however that penis yeast infections and vaginal thrush are not considered Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) as celibate people can also contract an infection. See more on yeast infection and sex.)
How To Treat A Yeast Infection
A wide range of yeast infection treatments exist from prescription drugs, to home remedies, diet plans and over the counter yeast infection treatments. Your best approach to treat yeast infection will depend on the severity of the infection and what parts of the body are infected. The table below considers yeast treatment options available in summary form, with links to further information.
|Type/severity of infection||Treatment for yeast infection|
|Localized infections, for example affecting the vagina (a condition known as vaginal thrush), the penis (also known as thrush in men or male yeast infection), the mouth, throat and tongue (also known as oral thrush), in skin folds, in cracks in corner of mouth, or under the diaper (see diaper rash remedies).||
|Candida of the gastrointestinal tract and recurrent, chronic yeast infections or systemic conditions. (Note: Systemic Candidiasis, when toxins enter the bloodstream, can result in very complex and at times seemingly unrelated symptoms. It is a serious condition and it makes sense to speak with a doctor for a definite diagnosis and to define the correct treatment.)||