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Yeasts are normally found on body surfaces in low numbers, and they usually do not cause any problems. But when people are exposed to certain risk factors, yeasts can overgrow causing symptomatic infections.
Yeasts are normally found on body surfaces in low numbers, and they usually do not cause any problems. But when people are exposed to certain risk factors, yeasts can overgrow causing symptomatic infections. Most yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans. For this reason, yeast infections are called candidiasis. But other species of yeast can also cause infections in susceptible patients.
Yeasts can cause many different illnesses that range from annoying to life-threatening. Yeast infections on body surfaces are referred to as superficial candidiasis. A yeast infection on the skin is called cutaneous candidiasis, whereas a yeast infection on mucous membranes of the mouth, intestine or vagina is called mucosal candidiasis.
There are two types of mucosal yeast infections:
1. The white form of yeast infection is called acute pseudomembranous candidiasis (acute means active; pseudomembranous means false membrane): In the white form, yeasts actively grow on tissue surfaces, releasing digestive enzymes and metabolic products that kill epithelial cells. The dead tissue turns white, forms a false membrane, and sloughs off in clumps. Examples include oral thrush, Candida esophagitis, vaginal yeast infections and intestinal candidiasis (also called the yeast syndrome). The white form of mucosal yeast infection is the classic example illustrated in medical textbooks.
2. The red form of yeast infection is called chronic atrophic erythematous candidiasis (chronic means low grade; atrophic means not feeding, not growing; erythematous means red tissue): In the red form, yeasts are not actively growing. Instead, yeasts invade underlying tissues and penetrate inside epithelial cells. There the yeasts continually release irritating chemicals into tissues, causing chronic inflammation, redness and burning. In this intracellular location, yeasts are protected from antifungals and the immune system. Examples include red, burning gums (denture stomatitis) in people with false teeth, and red, burning vulvas (vulvodynia or vulvar vestibulitis) in women inadequately treated for vaginal yeast infections or who have predisposing conditions for candidiasis. Diagnosis of the red form of yeast infection is usually missed by most physicians. Any red, burning, irritated tissue for which there is no identifiable cause should be considered a candidate for the diagnosis of the red form of candidiasis. The key is identifying the patient’s risk factors for yeast infections.
Superficial candidiasis is referred to as benign, which means not malignant. While superficial yeast infections are not life-threatening, they sure make your life miserable! Yeast infections and other yeast-related illnesses are arranged in the following table in order of increasing seriousness.
Spectrum of Candida-Related Diseases
|annoying||benign = superficial candidiasis||oral thrush, Candida pharyngitis, Candida esophagitis, intestinal yeast overgrowth = the yeast syndrome, colic, vaginal yeast infections, skin rash, diaper rash, perianal itching and/or burning, vulvodynia = vulvar vestibulitis, denture stomatitis, Candida allergy|
|chronic||immune defect||chronic granulomatous candidiasis (previously called chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis)|
|intermediate||candidemia||yeasts in the bloodstream|
|life-threatening||disseminated = systemic = invasive candidiasis||yeasts in deep organs (liver, kidney, spleen)|
There are many risk factors that predispose people to develop candidiasis. Most yeast infections are caused by physicians’ treatments. The major prescription drugs that cause yeast infections are antibiotics, corticosteroids, antacids, and estrogen (in birth control pills and hormone replacement for menopause).
Candida allergy is another predisposing risk factor that makes people more susceptible to Candida infections. Sadly, this fact is usually ignored – or even denied! – by the medical establishment. Yet, many controlled clinical studies have provided evidence for the candidiasis hypersensitivity syndrome.
Some behavioral risk factors also lead to yeast infections. Hence, you must control these everyday activities as part of a program tailor-made for your individual case in order to prevent yeast infections.
If you suffer from vulvodynia, you need to know that the standard medical protocol does not evaluate a woman’s history of risk factors for yeast infections, does not offer a long-term therapeutic trial of a systemic antifungal, and does not treat for Candida allergy. Furthermore, I disagree with most of the treatments currently offered for vulvodynia:
Because of the current controversies over treatments for yeast infections, Candida allergy and vulvodynia, you have to become your own advocate. You don’t have to “Learn to live with it!” and it’s not “All in yourhead!” as some insensitive doctors say.
Take charge of your health and learn everything about your condition. Please be assured that yeast-related illnesses can be cured and prevented if you obtain proper medical care and make appropriate certain lifestyle changes. Discuss my TEN STEP PROGRAM with your doctor.
STEP 1. Diagnostic testing for Candida infection and Candida allergy
STEP 2. Antifungal treatment with topical and systemic antiyeast medications
STEP 3. Precautions for avoiding liver toxicity and drug interactions
STEP 4. Anti-inflammatory drugs for itching and burning
STEP 5. Immunotherapy for Candida allergy
STEP 6. Avoid all risk factors that cause yeast infections
STEP 7. Lifestyle changes to prevent recurrences
STEP 8. Candida diet to cut down on adverse food reactions
STEP 9. Probiotics restore friendly intestinal bacteria killed by antibiotics
STEP 10. Antifungal prophylaxis when risk factors are unavoidable
My best wishes for your speedy recovery.
Copyright, 2007, Marjorie Crandall, Ph.D.