Yeast infections are caused by the overgrowth of Candida albicans. This condition is also referred to as candidiasis, candidosis, moniliasis, and oidiomycosis. Yeast infections can affect almost every part of the body, and manifest in different ways, ranging from mild to more severe infections. However, all of them are caused by the same yeast-like fungal organism, notorious Candida albicans.
Candida albicans normally lives on the surfaces of the human body, but under certain conditions it overgrows causing the opportunistic oral and genital infections. Moreover, Candida albicans can cause a diaper rash in infants, other skin rashes, fungal infection of the breasts, and infection of the nails. It is estimated that this diploid fungus lives in about 80% of human population. It is most abundant in the human mouth and in the gastrointestinal tract. Under normal circumstances, the presence of this fungus doesn’t cause any harmful effects, but in immunocompromised individuals, where the immune system's ability to fight infectious diseases is compromised or entirely absent, Candida albicans breaks the body’s natural barriers and infects the tissues.
Causes for Candida overgrowth
As already mentioned, the growth of Candida albicans is limited by the actions of human immune system, and most commonly the overgrowth occurs when the immune system fails. However, there are many other reasons for Candida overgrowth. For example, yeast infection can easily occur when the normal bacterial flora in the body is disturbed. Almost 20% of women will have Candida albicans in their vaginal flora, even if they do not experience the symptoms of infection. This occurs when aggressive detergents or douches disturb the normal vaginal flora, eliminating helpful bacteria that also keep the Candida within the limits. Sometimes, the reasons for this kind of disturbance can be strictly internal, such as various hormonal of psychological changes. In this manner, pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, and the use of oral contraceptives are considered as risk factors.
People suffering from diabetes mellitus and people who use anti-bacterial antibiotics are also at a higher risk of developing yeast infection. Prolonged use of antibiotics can eliminate the “good” bacteria from the body and create sufficient conditions for Candida overgrowth.
Weak immune system can sometimes be caused by various systematic or metabolic illnesses. Among them, the most commonly associated with yeast infections are HIV/AIDS, mononucleosis, cancer treatments, steroids, stress, and nutrient deficiency. These patients are at risk of complications from yeast infections that occur when the superficial infection of the skin or mucus membranes enters into the bloodstream and cause a systemic Candida infection. From the bloodstream, it can travel to different organs of the body and multiply. The symptoms include: muscle aches, sore/stiff joints, fatigue, problems with particular organs, recurrent urinary tract infections, and serious illnesses.