Yeast Infection: 9 Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

yeast infection symptoms

What is a yeast infection?

Yeast infection is a chronic health condition that affects millions of people each year. It can appear in various parts of the body. Yeast infection is often related to an imbalance in the microorganisms living in the gut.

The overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans is the main cause. Candida is the scientific name for yeast. It is a fungus that lives almost everywhere, including in the human body. Usually, the immune system keeps yeast under control.

This is the most common type of fungus that causes yeast infections.

The mouth, intestines and the skin all have small amounts of Candida albicans present. When maintained at the correct level, candida supports important bodily functions. Functions like digestion and nutrient absorption. The immune system and the body’s normal bacteria usually keep Candida in balance.

However, if the balance becomes disturbed, serious issues can become a concern. Issues may also arise when Candida overtakes the gut or spreads to other areas of the body.

Treatment and severity of the yeast infection determine how long it will last. Mild forms of yeast infections may go away in as few as three days. These often do not require any treatment.

Moderate to severe yeast infection, on the other hand, can take one to two weeks to resolve.

Yeast infection is typically not life-threatening. If left untreated for long, it can spread and eventually reach the bloodstream. Once the fungus is circulating throughout the body, it can affect vital organs like the brain and heart. This can cause more serious complications, including death.

Causes:

  • High sugar diet and poor diet –
  • Recent use of antibiotics, corticosteroids or both
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Weak immune system
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Uncontrolled diabetes

Types:

  • Thrush
  • Vaginal
  • Skin
  • Invasive/Gastrointestinal

How to diagnose yeast infection:

Doctors would often look at a patient’s medical history and a review of the symptoms. Conditions and medications that may link to a weakened immune system may also be considered.

A physical examination can normally diagnose a yeast infection.

If the symptoms mimic or are very similar to other illnesses, doctors will take samples from the affected areas. The samples will be sent to the laboratory for further testing.

General Signs and Symptoms:

Signs and symptoms of candidiasis vary depending on the area affected. Yeast infections affect people differently. Therefore, this list of symptoms is very broad and can mimic symptoms associated with other conditions.  A person may suffer from any or all of the symptoms below if they have Candida.

Seek medical advice if the symptoms do not go away after using over-the-counter medication. If unrelated symptoms have developed, a consultation should be also done.

Furthermore, any suspicions about other underlying causes, or if the yeast infection has become recurrent despite preventive efforts should call for a trip to the doctor’s office.

Here are 9 of the most common and general symptoms of a yeast infection. Read on to know more about these symptoms in detail.

1. Mood disorders

Candida is a condition that can have a notable impact on many bodily functions including mood and mental activity or health.

The brain and gut may not seem, at first glance, closely related. However, these two systems have a big influence on each other. The gut produces an essential neurotransmitter called serotonin. Therefore, gut disruption caused by yeast infection can have a dramatic impact on neurological activity and mood regulation.

Brain fog or the inability to have a sharp memory or lack of a sharp focus is a symptom that there could be an overgrowth of Candida albicans.

In addition, anxiety attacks, crying spells, memory loss, feeling spaced out, depression, and manic feelings may be observed.

In addition, irritability, and poor physical coordination may also present themselves.

2. Fatigue

There is no direct evidence that yeast infection can directly cause fatigue. There are, however, several ways that yeast infection can contribute to the onset of fatigue symptoms.

Nutritional deficiencies are common in candida overgrowth. Candida overgrowth causes reduced nutrient absorption. Food that passes in the gut is not processed properly. Over time, this causes the body to experience fatigue. It simply loses important nutrients needed to fuel the body.

It is linked with deficiencies in important nutrients like essential fatty acids, vitamin B6, vitamin A, iron and magnesium. Low levels of these, especially magnesium, can result in fatigue.

Yeast infection also produces a wide variety of chemicals. These include a neurotoxin named acetaldehyde, which is the same chemical that causes hangovers. Yeast infection makes it hard for the liver to process the large amounts of acetaldehyde. The ensuing build-up of acetaldehyde, ethanol, and other toxins can slow down various processes in the body.

Lastly, fatigue may become prevalent since many of the body’s resources are being diverted to resolve yeast infection. Supporting an already weakened immune system also takes its toll. Burnout and adrenal fatigue are often seen at the same time as Candida. 

3. Skin issues

Cutaneous candidiasis is the medical term for a skin yeast infection.

Fungi often live on the hair, nails, and outer skin layers that cause these infections. Sometimes, yeast penetrates the surface of the skin and cause infection.

It can involve almost any skin on the body, but most often it occurs in warm, moist, creased and sweaty areas. These areas provide good environments for the yeast to thrive. Examples of these areas are the armpits and the groin. They can also be seen in the skin between fingers and toes, corners of the mouth, and under the breasts.

Red rashes form in the affected area. These rashes can lead to sores or blisters. In some cases, the skin thickens and produces a white substance that has a curd-like appearance.

Candida albicans can also cause diaper rashes in children. The infected area becomes red and elevated. Fluid can also be visible under the skin. Small and raised bumps appear at the edge of the rash. These bumps are characteristic of a Candida diaper rash.

They also help differentiate yeast diaper rash from other types of diaper rash like contact diaper rash.

Yeast diaper rashes can appear on the thighs, abdomen, genitals and genital creases.

4. Digestive issues

Candida overgrowth is mostly a digestive system-related condition, changes in the digestive tract can often lead to other symptoms.

Bloating, gas, cramps and either diarrhea or constipation are clear signs that something is amiss in the digestive region.

A cause for this is an insufficient level of healthy bacteria which is often caused by an overgrowth of candida. The health of the digestive tract relies mainly on the proper balance between the good and bad bacteria that live in the gut.

When the good bacteria that resides in the stomach are overwhelmed, the small and large intestines become unable to function properly.

Candida overgrowth has even been found in recent studies to have links with other stomach diseases. These are Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, gastric ulcers, and duodenal ulcers.

5. Food sensitivity

An overgrowth of yeast in the digestive tract can cause a condition called a leaky gut syndrome.

The leaky gut syndrome is a serious and debilitating condition strongly linked to Candida overgrowth. This is the inflammation and weakening of the intestinal walls. 

The walls of the intestines are penetrated by long branches (hyphae) created by the Candida overgrowth. This is a more virulent fungal form. The intestinal membrane becomes permeable. Food particles and metabolites escape the intestinal cavity and enter the bloodstream.

When the intestines are leaking food particles into the bloodstream, the immune system goes on hyper-alert trying to protect the body. It sees these “foreign invaders” as threats. The immune system’s response can cause allergies and other health problems, including increasing your risk for various autoimmune illnesses.

6. Sinus infection

An excessive amount of Candida can wreak havoc on the sinuses and cause symptoms similar to that of sinusitis.

The sinuses can get a fungal infection when fungal organisms are inhaled and deposited in the nasal passageways and paranasal sinuses. This causes inflammation. The dark, moist environment of the sinuses is ideal for fungi, which can reproduce without light or food.

Bacteria are the main causes of acute sinus infection. Fungal infections can cause chronic sinus infections.

Here lies a big problem, though. The most common treatment for chronic sinus infections is antibiotics. Using antibiotics to resolve this are pretty much useless for a fungal infection. In fact, antibiotics can even make it worse.  This is because antibiotics can kill the good bacteria that are competing with the fungus, thereby allowing the fungal infection to spread.

A good diet and boosting the immune system are better solutions in this case rather than using antibiotics.

7. Recurring genital or urinary infection

More than 75% of women will get a vaginal yeast infection during their lives and half of these women could have recurring vaginal yeast infections.

The vaginal tract contains Candida. A yeast infection happens when the lactobacillus levels in the genitals become disrupted. This leads to an overgrowth of Candida.

Lactobacillus is a type of bacteria that keeps the amount of Candida in the genital area under control.

Men can get genital yeast infections too but it is quite uncommon.

In men, there would be red rashes, itching and burning on the penis. Women experience vaginal itching, soreness, and redness. There will also be white, clumpy discharge coming from the vagina. Intercourse can also become painful.

Mild to moderate genital yeast infections can be treated over-the-counter or prescription antifungal creams, pill or suppository. Severe cases may require longer prescribed medication either in cream, pill or ointment form.

8. Oral thrush

The mouth is another part of the digestive tract that is particularly vulnerable to yeast infection.

A yeast infection present in the mouth is called oral thrush. The yeast overgrowth causes cottage cheese-like lesions that can take over your mouth, tongue, cheeks, and gums. It can spread to the tonsils and the back of the throat as well.

Severe yeast infections may spread to the esophagus and cause difficulties in eating and pain when swallowing.

The appearance of white bumps or lesions on the tongue, throat or elsewhere in the mouth are symptomatic of a yeast infection.

Other signs that can be present include burning or painful sensation in the mouth, redness inside the mouth or at the corners of the mouth. Loss or a dulled sense of taste may also be observed.

Oral thrush can happen to anyone but it is most common among the elderly, newborn children, and anyone with a compromised immune system or those who observe improper diet.

Treatment for thrush consists of antifungal medication that can come in the form of a pill, liquid, or lozenge.

9. Joint pain

Joint pain materializes when Candida enters the bloodstream and travels throughout the body. Fungal arthritis is another term for this.

Joint pain can also be accompanied by heat, swelling, warmth, redness, and loss of range of motion of the affected joint

The most commonly affected areas are the hips and knees.

Another probable cause of joint pain during yeast infection is the build-up of uric acid. Uric acid is another toxic byproduct of Candida albicans, and it can lead to joint pain in various parts of the body.

Candida can also cause bone infections, or osteomyelitis, which results in pain and tenderness in the bone and nearby parts. While both joint and bone infections are very uncommon, once they are diagnosed, they can be very difficult to treat.

Other important notes:

  • It is best to address any underlying cause for treating and preventing chronic yeast infection.  
  • Food plays an important role in maintaining the proper balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the digestive tract.
  • Food high in sugar content and high lactose dairy products can encourage an overgrowth of yeast and other “bad” microorganisms.
  • Garlic, probiotics, and low sugar fruits are some examples of foods that can help curb yeast growth.
  • Treating individual symptoms can be effective in the short-term, but for long-term relief, a change in the diet must be considered.