Definition A yeast infection of the skin and mucous membranes is caused by Candida albicans.
What is going on in the body? A yeast called Candida albicans is a common and normal inhabitant of the mucosal tissues, such as in the mouth and vagina. Sometimes the yeast can overgrow and produce an inflamed rash on skin surfaces such as the nappy area, genital region, under the breasts, or underarms. Candidiasis of the mouth is also called Oral thrush.
What are the signs and symptoms of the infection? Signs and symptoms of a yeast infection correspond to the site of the infection:
Skin infections cause a red rash, often with patchy areas that ooze small amounts of whitish fluid. The rash may be itchy or burn. Small pustules or white blisters with pus inside may develop.
Vaginal yeast infections cause a white or yellow discharge from the vagina, with burning, itching, and redness along the walls and external area of the vagina.
A yeast infection of the penis causes redness, scaling, and sometimes pain on the underside of the penis.
oral thrush, which is a yeast infection of the mouth, causes creamy white patches on the tongue and sides of the mouth, and sometimes pain.
A yeast infection of the nail beds causes white or yellow nails, painful swelling, and pus
What are the causes and risks of the infection? Yeast infections are more common with:
What can be done to prevent the infection? Some yeast infections can be avoided by:
taking antibiotics only when prescribed
avoiding excessive sweets
keeping skin cool and dry
wearing cotton underwear
How is the infection diagnosed? A yeast infection is suspected when the doctor sees the distinctive rash, or the thick white pasty residue it generates. The diagnosis can be confirmed with a scraping of the skin or residue that shows the yeast organisms.
What are the long-term effects of the infection? Treatment is usually successful within 2 weeks, but the infection often comes back. If left untreated, yeast infections can cause sepsis, a life-threatening blood infection.
What are the risks to others? Yeast infections are mildly contagious from person to person, and from place to place on the same person. A mother with a vaginal yeast infection can pass it on to her newborn during delivery.
What are the treatments for the infection? Yeast infections are treated with anti-yeast, anti-fungal creams. These include:
nystatin cream for infections of the skin, vagina, and penis
suppositories for vaginal or anal yeast infections
The skin should be kept dry. Plain talcum powder, or a powder that contains nystatin, can help keep the surface area dry. Corticosteroid ointments may be used to reduce the itching and pain.
What are the side effects of the treatments? Side effects of ointments used to treat yeast infections may include a localised skin reaction.
What happens after treatment for the infection? Treatment of yeast infections is usually successful within 1 to 2 weeks.
How is the infection monitored? Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor. A pregnant woman who has a vaginal yeast infection should be monitored in her third trimester, because it can be passed on to her infant during delivery.
Author: Lynn West, MD Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia Last Updated: 1/10/2001 Contributors Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request
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