What is a yeast infection?
Yeast is a fungus normally found on your skin. It’s also found in your digestive system. And in the vaginal area of people assigned female at birth. When too much yeast grows on your skin or other areas, it can cause an infection. A common yeast infection is candidiasis.
What causes a yeast infection?
A yeast infection can happen if your skin gets damaged. Yeast can also overgrow in warm or humid conditions. An infection can also happen if you have a weak immune system. Taking antibiotics can also cause an overgrowth of yeast. That’s because antibiotics kill the healthy bacteria in your body that normally keep the yeast in balance.
Who is at risk for a yeast infection?
Anyone can get a yeast infection. Those at higher risk for it include:
- Babies or incontinent adults wearing diapers
- People with large skin folds
- People who wear dentures
- People taking antibiotics
- People taking corticosteroids (including inhaled corticosteroids)
- People getting cancer treatment
- People with other health conditions, such as HIV or diabetes
What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?
The symptoms of a yeast infection depend on where it is in the body. The chart below shows the most common symptoms of a yeast infection. But yours may be slightly different.
Skin folds or belly button
Corners of the mouth (angular cheilitis)
The symptoms of a yeast infection may look like other skin conditions. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is a yeast infection diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and health history. Your provider will also give you a physical exam. They may scrape off a bit of skin or remove part of a nail and check it to confirm the diagnosis.
How is a yeast infection treated?
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Yeast infections can sometimes be treated with anti-yeast (antifungal) creams. Here are some treatments you may be prescribed, depending on where the infection is:
- Yeast infection of the vagina or penis. These can be treated with creams or medicated suppositories. Sometimes anti-yeast medicine taken by mouth (orally) is used.
- Yeast infection in the mouth (thrush). This may be treated with a medicated mouthwash or with lozenges that dissolve in the mouth.
- Severe infection or a weak immune system. You may need to take an oral anti-yeast medicine.
- Yeast infection in the food pipe (esophagus). These are often treated with anti-yeast medicines taken by mouth or given by IV (intravenous) line into a vein.
- Yeast infection of the nails. These are treated with an oral anti-yeast medicine.
- Yeast infection in the skin folds. These can be treated with anti-yeast powders, lotions, or creams.
Can a yeast infection be prevented?
You can prevent some yeast infections by doing these things:
- Keep your mouth clean and healthy to help prevent a yeast infection in your mouth (called thrush). This includes brushing and flossing your teeth every day and using mouthwash as needed. Rinse your mouth or brush your teeth after using inhaled corticosteroids.
- Change wet or soiled diapers on children or on incontinent adults. Also remove wet bathing suits after swimming.
- Wear cotton underwear to help prevent a vaginal or genital yeast infection. If you get vaginal yeast infections often, you may want to ask your healthcare provider about taking probiotic supplements.
- Keep areas where skin rubs up against skin dry and try to reduce friction.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
See your healthcare provider if you get symptoms of an infection. These include warm, reddened skin or drainage. A secondary bacterial infection can happen. So watch for spreading redness, swelling, or pain.
Key points about a yeast infection
- A yeast infection is caused by yeast on the skin or mucous membranes.
- The symptoms depend on where it happens on your body. Common symptoms are a rash, white discharge, or itching.
- People at higher risk include babies, incontinent adults wearing diapers, people who wear dentures, and those who are taking antibiotics or getting cancer treatment.
- Yeast infections are treated with medicated creams or other anti-yeast (antifungal) preparations.
- Some yeast infections can be prevented. Wearing cotton underwear can help prevent a vaginal or genital yeast infection.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are and when they should be reported.
- Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your healthcare provider if you have questions, especially after office hours or on weekends.