What is a Yeast Infection?

what is yeast infectionYeast Infection. We have all heard the dreaded words, and we have dealt with the possibility that we will be sentenced to a life time of dealing with these frustrating things. Do you realize the 3 out of 4 women will experience a yeast infection at least once? What exactly is a yeast infection; why do you get them and when you have one, how do you get rid of the immediate symptoms? If you suffer from recurrent infections, how do you get rid of the “yeast beast” for good? Some women deal with awful vaginal itching, others with pain and frequent urination, still others with inflammation and rash. The really unfortunate ones get variations of all of these vaginal symptoms. I hope to answer some of your questions in the following pages.

First, what exactly is a yeast infection? The definition from Merriam-Webster is “infection of the female genital tract that is caused by a yeast fungus (Candida albicans) and is characterized by a discharge and inflammation; broadly: an infection (as thrush) caused by a yeast fungus.”

What Causes Yeast Infections?

Ah, yes… very interesting, but why do you seemingly get an infection out of the blue? Candida albicans is a common resident in everyone’s system. It is present in all of us and in the amounts nature intended it does not harm your system. However, nature provides us with a delicate balance and when that balance is out of whack it is possible for Candida albicans to overgrow and cause a yeast infection which can manifest in many different ways. There are a number of things that can cause our systems to get out of balance.

  • Oral antibiotics
  • Corti-Steroids
  • Prednisone
  • Oral Acne Medications (Accutane)
  • Birth Control Pills (B-6 absorption – take B6)
  • Hormone Therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Stress
  • Heavy Metal or Chemical Toxicity
  • High Sugar Diet
  • Diabetes
  • Hormonal Imbalance

Candida albicans is a common yeast in our digestive system and throat. When we are exposed to antibiotics, birth control pills, corti-steroids, or products such as prednisone the good bacteria in our systems are killed. Candida is not phased by antibiotics and with the good bacteria gone that normally keep the organism under control, the candida can overgrow. When candida gets out of control, it morphs into a harmful fungus. This overgrowth can and will commonly occur in the throat, vaginal and rectal areas manifesting as the classic yeast infection. I mean, really, how many people have never, not even once, taken antibiotics for an infection or as an oral acne medication? How many women have never been on birth control pills? I believe this condition is truly an epidemic and 85%-95% of the population are affected.

Symptoms Of a Yeast Infecti0n

Yeast infections are also known as vaginal candidiasis and monilial vaginitis. They occur when the vaginal flora gets out of balance when there is too much Candida albicans and not enough good bacteria (acidophilus) in the vaginal area. The signs and symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are:

  • burning of the vagina
  • burning or painful urination
  • discomfort or pain during or after sexual intercourse
  • odor (not unpleasant)
  • irritation or itching of the vagina
  • itching and burning of the female genitals (vulva)
  • vulva redness and swelling
  • vaginal discharge (cottage-cheese-like in nature)
  • vaginal discharge (thick, whitish-gray)
  • vaginal discharge (watery to thick in consistency)

If this is your first yeast infection, it is important to see your doctor in order to get a diagnosis. Your doctor will perform a pelvic exam. During this examination, your doctor will be looking for inflammation on, or in, the vagina and cervix. There may also be white plaques on the vaginal wall. The doctor may also perform a wet prep, which is a procedure where you are positioned in the stirrups. The doctor uses a septum to open the vagina and then inserts a sterile, moist cotton swab. A sample of the vaginal discharge is taken and the septum removed. The sample is placed on two slides; one with a salt solution and the other with a hydrogen peroxide solution. These slides are then examined under a microscope for indications of Candida albicans. These are the things the doctor is looking for:

  • A vaginal yeast infection which may be characterized by a white, cheesy discharge, severe itching, painful intercourse and a rash or vaginal inflammation
  • Trichomoniasis which is characterized by a yellow, frothy, foul-smelling discharge. Sores may develop on the cervix and intercourse is painful. You will need antibiotics to treat this sort of infection.
  • Bacterial Vaginosis which is a bacterial infection. The symptoms for this are a thick, white, fishy-smelling discharge. There may be a rash or painful intercourse or odor after intercourse. You will need antibiotics to treat this type of infection.
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