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Yeast

Yeast, or Candida albicans, lives in and on the body and does not usually cause problems. Vaginal yeast is very common in females, but yeast also occurs in males. Although uncomfortable, yeast infections are easily treated and are not usually serious.

Causes

Although it is called an infection, yeast is really an "overgrowth" of what is normally present in or on the body. When conditions change, yeast increases and creates symptoms. The increase in yeast can be triggered by many factors including taking antibiotics or corticosteroids. Yeast is not usually passed during sex, but sex can change the balance in the vagina and cause yeast to increase. It occurs more often in people who are pregnant, have diabetes, or are immune compromised.

Symptoms

In females, symptoms include vaginal itchiness, dryness, pain and increased discharge that can be thick and looks somewhat like cottage cheese.

In males, yeast can appear as a rash (red, raised dots or bumps), which may or may not be itchy. There may be a cheesy white discharge on the head of the penis and the foreskin can swell and become tight.

Complications

Usually yeast is easily treated and does not lead to complications. Some people get frequent infections. People who have repeated yeast infections should talk to their health care provider to rule out other causes such as diabetes.

Treatment

Treatment options for yeast include creams or tablets that are inserted into the vagina, creams that can be used on the skin in both men and women, and pills that can be taken by mouth. In BC, treatments can be bought at the pharmacy and a prescription is not needed.

Talk to your health care provider about treatment if you are pregnant, have a new partner, have repeated yeast problems or are not sure that you have a yeast infection. They can test and recommend the best treatment for you.

Prevention

Some things you can try to prevent yeast include:

  • Wear cotton underwear and loose clothing
  • Avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics
  • Control diabetes
  • Have a diet low in sugar content
  • Use unscented soap or no soap at all on your genitals

Resources

BC Centre for Disease Control – Yeast
HealthLink BC – Vaginal yeast infection


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