Yeast infection is a disease wherein yeast (a type of fungi) multiplies uncontrollably, causing inflammation and infection on your skin. Its medical term is candidiasis, which is taken from Candida, the strain of yeast responsible for the infection.
But First, What Are Fungi Anyway?
Fungi are a group of organisms that have plant and animal characteristics, and they come in different forms such as mushrooms, smuts, puffballs, truffles and yeasts.1 They have cell walls similar to plants, which animals don't have.
Fungi cannot photosynthesize their own food as well, so they obtain it from their surroundings, similar to animals.2
Due to their unique properties and abundance of species, fungi have been classified under their own kingdom, separate from plants and animals. It is estimated that there are 700,000 to 5 million species under the Fungi Kingdom.3
Fungi can live anywhere, from oceans to deserts to even your own body. According to a study published in the scientific journal Nature, there are close to 200 species of fungi living on your feet,4 with most of them found in between your toes.5
There's no need to worry, though, because the probiotics in your body protect you from an infection.
Though fungi may have gained a reputation for causing infection, they do have a positive side. Along with bacteria, fungi help decompose organic matter to be returned to the soil.
Another beneficial type is mycorrhizal fungi, which help improve soil health by increasing soil fertility, water-holding capacity and nutrient content, among others.
Some fungi are also used in cooking, specifically mushrooms, which provide benefits such as weight management and improved immune system function. They also have their own biological field of study known as mycology, because of the abundance of their species, which are found all over the world.
However, yeast in particular requires extensive studying because it has several species that are classified as pathogens (can cause disease).
Yeast Infection Can Affect Both Genders, but It Is More Prevalent in Women
When yeast infection is brought up, it usually refers to yeast infection in the vagina due to its prevalence in women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "nearly 75 percent of all adult women have had at least one 'yeast infection' in their lifetime."6
Men may get yeast infections in their genitals as well, which can lead to balanitis, the inflammation of the head of the penis (glans).7 In some cases, it may spread to the scrotum, inner thighs and buttocks.8
Thrush, or oral candidiasis, can appear in male or female infants, elderly or patients with weakened immune systems.9
Various Manifestations of Yeast Infection
Below are several classic symptoms of yeast infection in both men and women.
✓ Yeast infection in women:10
- Rashes accompanied by itching in the genital area
- Vaginal discharge with properties similar to cottage cheese
- Discomfort during urination
✓ Yeast infection in men:11
- Moist skin on the penis, which may be accompanied with a thick, white substance collecting in the skin folds
- Patches of white shiny skin on the penis
- Redness, itching and a burning sensation on the penis
✓ Oral candidiasis:12
- White spots inside the mouth
- Discomfort in the mouth area
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sore throat
Yeast infection may cause uncomfortable symptoms, but fortunately they are curable. Methods such as reducing sugar in your diet, home remedies and good hygienic practices play a role in treating yeast infection, all of which you'll learn in this guide.