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What is a Yeast Infection?

Yeasts are microorganisms classified as fungi. There are approximately 1,500 species of yeast – many of them are beneficial because they may be used in baking bread and brewing beer. However, some species of yeasts – often termed as pathogenic yeasts - are dangerous to humans because they can cause infection.

Most yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans , a species of yeast fungus which thrives on the mucous membrane and in the skin of other parts of the body. Few numbers of Candida albicans are always present in the normal human skin and digestive tract; it is the overgrowth of these fungi that causes infection.

The population of Candida is regulated by other naturally-occurring microorganisms such as the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. These two “friendly” bacteria are present in the intestinal tracts.

When there is an imbalance of these “friendly” microorganisms in the human body, the growth and replication of Candida albicans becomes uncontrollable. This results to symptoms like irritation, itching and burning sensations in moist areas like the mouth and the female genitalia. The clinical term for yeast infection is candidiasis.

Yeast infection in the mouth is called oral thrush, which occurs as white patches found in the mucous linings inside the oral cavity. This type of infection is common in newborn babies and denture users. Oral thrush among infants can be painless, but it might get irritated and sore if left untreated. Adults who have oral thrush may immediately experience discomfort and burning sensations inside their mouth.

Candida overgrowth in the female genitalia results to redness and irritation of the external area and the vagina. There is also some whitish vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese. Yeast infection is not widely recognized as a sexually-transmitted disease. However, up to 15% of males may develop symptoms of itching and penile rash after sexual contact with an infected partner.


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