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.

What is a yeast infection, exactly?

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.

Where else can this kind of infection appear?

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.

Common Yeast Infection Symptoms

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:

  • Red or purple patches (area with an altered surface)
  • White, flaky substance over affected areas
  • Scaling, or shedding of the skin with flakes
  • Cracks in the skin
  • Soreness
  • Erythema, which results in patches of reddened skin causing dilatation of the blood capillaries
  • Maceration, or the appearance of soft white skin
  • Creamy pimples filled with pus

Don’t forget the mouth!

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. 

A word about bacteria

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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Let’s talk about prevention… stat!

  • Keep it loose... and breathable: wear loose-fitting clothing and/or breathable fibers (like cotton underwear)
  • Dry clothes, asap: change out of a wet swimsuit or wet clothes as soon as you can
  • Use antibiotics only when you have to and as directed by your doctor
  • Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene: keep skin in your mouth, under breasts, between toes, in and around your belly button nice and clean
  • Skip the scents, especially in feminine products. Don't douche unless specifically directed to by a doctor.
  • Keep in good communication with your doctor about your blood sugar and diabetes, changing hormones due to pregnancy, perimenopause, or menopause, and your immune system (especially if it’s weak or compromised).

 

Your best health is worth your time and effort. Experience excellent health, not to mention some good, healthy pride and satisfaction in caring for someone really important… YOU!

Yeast infections are a topic worthy of open conversation and one safe place to talk about it is in the Gennev Community Forums. Join the conversation today.

 

Author

Shannon Perry

February 20, 2020
Director of Programming & Media

Medically Reviewed By

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