If you thought yeast infections were for vaginas only, get ready for your mind to be blown wide open.
Chances are good that you’ve heard of vaginal yeast infections, and perhaps you’ve experienced them firsthand? You wouldn’t be alone as the Centers for Disease Control shared that 75 percent of adult women will experience Vaginal Candidiasis at some point in their lives.
It’s a fungal infection and can occur in places on the body where skin rubs together or touches (also known as intertriginous areas, for the vocabulary, biology, and crossword puzzle fans). Yeast infections aren’t just for adult women, either. Men, kids, even infants can get these funky fungal skin infections.
The strain of fungus is called Candida and more than 150 species exist.
No need for alarm at the word “fungus” though; a small amount of yeast is a normal thing on your skin and in your digestive system. It’s the overgrowth or an imbalance of yeast in or on the body that causes infections and the irritating symptoms that go with them.
The easy answer is commonly where areas of skin touch or rub against another area of skin. So, where does skin touch on the body? At the armpits, in the mouth and at the corners of the mouth, inside or around the navel, between digits, on finger or toenails, and certainly around the groin. Skin folds are another spot where an overgrowth of yeast can happen, such as in the abdominal area as well as underneath pendulous breasts.
Here’s another tip: candida skin infections are called by different names in different places on the body. So, you may have heard of oral thrush or diaper rash without knowing that those are types of candida skin infections. Other common types of candida, or yeast, infections are jock itch, athlete’s foot, and nail fungus.
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Warm, moist environments encourage more yeast production, so if you’re living in a warm, humid climate, wear restrictive clothing, or get lax about your hygiene, you may be prompting more risk for this annoying skin infection.
You may have a higher risk of developing a yeast infection if you’re pregnant; work outdoors in wet, warm weather; have diabetes, douche or use vaginal sprays; have a weakened immune system due to certain conditions or medications; or are using hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills.
We checked in with Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Rebecca Dunsmoor-Su to see if hormone replacement therapy (HRT) contributed to the overgrowth of yeast. She said, "HRT is actually preventative as it tends to keep vaginal pH correct and prevent yeast overgrowth." Regarding oral contraceptives, "...(they) are a plus minus, depending on the levels of estrogen and progesterone." Definitely a few good talking points for your next exam or appointment.
Note: Treatments do vary for each area of the skin, and preparations should only be used as intended where symptoms appear. For instance, a spray may be really convenient for athlete’s foot, but using it for a case of thrush (in your mouth) isn't a great idea.
Best bet is to
1. Get the right diagnosis with your doctor
2. Take the right medication, as directed.
The most common symptom is a rash or irritated, red skin: it can develop under an abdominal fold of skin, between toes, inside or around a navel, beneath breasts, or on the underside of a penis. Once diagnosed, anti-fungal creams and ointments will generally clear up this symptom, if it is, indeed, a yeast infection. Symptoms won’t improve if the real issue is bacterial instead of fungal… see below for more on that.
Other common symptoms:
Thrush is actually a type of yeast infection that develops in the mouth. It appears as red or white patches of skin, and a medicated mouthwash is often suggested or prescribed to clear it up. Keep an eye on the inside of your mouth as you age, as risks of developing thrush increase with age. Risk increases even more if you wear dentures. Keep brushing and flossing twice daily, plus swishing with mouthwash (as needed) daily for best prevention.
If you’re taking antibiotics for a bacterial infection, you may develop a yeast infection. For women, the balance of the body’s natural production of vaginal yeast can get thrown way off when antibiotics are used to fight off bacteria. Talk with your doctor about replenishing your digestive system’s good gut flora if they prescribe a course of antibiotics.
For vaginal yeast infections, symptoms may include:
If you’re unsure about whether or not you’ve got a yeast infection, make an appointment with your doctor and get it checked out. Usually, a skin sample (such as a swab or a bit of a gentle tissue scraping) and completed test can illuminate what’s going on with your skin.
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