A yeast infection is a fungal infection caused by the Candida species, of which Candida albicans is likely the most common. Yeast organisms are always present but are usually prevented from “overgrowth” by naturally occurring microorganisms.
At least three-quarters of all women will experience candidiasis at some point in their lives. The Candida albicans organism is found in the vaginas of almost all women and normally causes no problems. However, when it gets out of balance with the other “normal flora”, such as lactobacilli, which can also be harmed by using douches, an overgrowth and symptoms can result. The use of oral contraceptives, some antibiotics, and diabetes mellitus can lead to an increased incidence of yeast infections.
The most common symptoms are itching and irritation of the vagina and/or vulva, and a whitish or whitish-gray discharge that may have a “yeasty” smell like beer or baking bread. It may resemble cottage cheese.
Many women mistake the symptoms of the more common bacterial vaginosis for a yeast infection. In a 2002 study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, only 33 percent of women who were self-treatingself-treating for a yeast infection actually had a yeast infection. Instead, they had either bacterial vaginosis or a mixed-type infection. Currently, bacterial vaginosis can only be diagnosed during a doctor’s visit.
Candidiasis can be successfully treated either with home remedies or, in the case of a more severe infection, with either over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medications. Home remedies for candidiasis include the consumption or direct application of yogurt, which contains lactobacillus, “friendly” bacteria that kill yeast, acidophilus tablets or salves, and even lightly crushed cloves of garlic, which yield allicin, an antifungal.
While home remedies can offer relief in minor cases of infection, seeking medical attention can be necessary because the extent of the infection sometimes cannot be judged well by the sufferer. Prescription medication is often the only solution to an infection; the antifungal drugs commonly used to treat candidiasis are topical clotrimazole, topical nystatin, fluconazole, and topical ketoconazole. In severe infections, generally in hospitalized patients, amphotericin B, caspofungin, or voriconazole may be used. These medications are not effective against the more common bacterial vaginosis. Please be sure to talk to your doctor for more information.