Most people hear “yeast infection” and think of vaginal yeast infections, thanks to the numerous over the counter treatments advertised on television. Unfortunately, there are numerous places and ways a yeast infection can strike (yeast is a type of fungi), and yes, there are yeast infections in men, too!
Most fungi start on the skin, although sometimes they can go straight to the lungs if inhaled (this is usually related to extreme mold problems or poor working conditions). Fungi like tinea versicolor or the yeast candidas live on the skin of most people, but aren’t a problem; fungi compete with bacterial (and intestinal) skin colonies for space.
Warm, wet conditions and dry skin can feed fungi on the skin, causing them to get out of control and begin an infection. While most skin fungal infections can be easily treated (athlete’s foot, or ringworm, for example), if the fungi get into the body, treatment becomes far more complicated and the risk of side-effects (including death) more serious.
Yeast Infection Symptoms
On the skin, some yeasts/fungi may appear colored (or lighter than skin tone). Some may apear as a red rash. Usually one site is mainly affected, with smaller satellite sites surrounding. (Fungal infections spread easily! Do not scratch, and wash clothing/toothbrushes/anything that comes into contact!)
Fever can be a yeast infection symptom, but not all infections will have fever.
In women, vaginal yeast infections involve clumpy discharge, burning, and itching.
Yeast infections in men are more likely to affect skin, mouth, or nasal passages, but it’s not impossible for genitalia to be affected (especially after intercourse with an infected woman). Any burning sensation should be checked by a health care professional.
How Fungi Enter The Body
A cut or abrasion can cause fungi to enter the body, especially if an infection already exists on the skin (fungal infections are highly contagious, and extreme hygiene needs to be enforced to avoid spreading it to others or other parts of the body!).
Thrush, a fungal infection in the mouth, is also a somewhat common type of infection. Although children are most susceptible, it can also affect adults, and can spread into the esophagus and stomach. The gastrointestinal tract can also be infected by fungus if antibiotics or steroids kill off the friendly bacteria that support digestive health.
Internal fungal infections may cause dehydration. It’s important to drink water at regular intervals throughout the day, even if it’s uncomfortable.
If fungi spread throughout the body, it’s called a systemic infection. The blood, brain and kidneys are most likely to be infected, but the lungs and liver are also at risk.
75% of people with systemic fungal infections die. Treatment should be sought immediately, and any fungal infection should be monitored by a health care professional, especially if it lasts more than two weeks or symptoms worsen.
Recurrent Fungal Infections
An internal fungal infection is made far more likely by a weakened immune system, and can be a symptom of a more serious illness like cancer or AIDS. If you have a systemic fungal infection, or have recurring fungal infections, see a health care professional.
If you have a weakened immune system, keep your health care professional updated on new symptoms and illnesses.
Yeast Infection Treatments
External fungi can be treated with creams, powders, and lotions. For internal yeast infections antifungals may be prescribed; NOTE: antifungal drugs may interact with many other medications, they can also be hard on the liver and cause severe allergic reactions. Take under close supervision of your health care provider!
Any common myths you’ve heard about yeast infection symptoms you’d like addressed?