Vaginitis is one of the most common kinds of yeast infections.
When the invasive form of C. albicans infects the female genital area, the condition is called Vaginitis, or genital candidiasis.
Vaginal yeast infections are so common that 75% of women will have at least one infection sometime in their lives, and 50% of women will have more than one. C. albicans likes to live in warm moist areas, and the vagina certainly qualifies.
However, the female genital area is by no means the only place where a yeast infection can occur.
Less commonly recognized kinds of yeast infections
Yeast infections can also appear on a man’s penis, in babies as diaper rash, and as an oral yeast infection, called thrush. (Older adults often experience thrush infections under their dentures).
Yeast infections can also cause a rash in the underarm area, on the palms of the hands, under the breasts, on the lower abdomen and on any other areas of skin where conditions are right for it. Yeast can also cause nail bed infections.
Some kinds of yeast infections that can be dangerous
In patients with severely compromised immune systems, such as AIDS patients, premature infants, people with leukemia, patients who have had organ transplants, chemotherapy patients and burn victims, yeast infections can cause systemic infections by getting into the blood. When this occurs, 30 to 50% of the infected patients die as a result.
It appears that hospitalized patients, especially those in intensive care units, are particularly at risk of contracting the more virulent types of yeast infections because some strains of this pathogen have evolved and become drug resistant in the hospital setting. A patient does not need to be immune-compromised to be infected by one of these virulent strains of Candida.
It was assumed for many years that all yeast infections result from our own resident population of yeast, but a scientist in New Zealand questions this view. Dr. Jan Schmid, of the Massey University Institute of Molecular Biosciences, found that many hospital infections are caused by more aggressive strains that invade the body and replace the Candida that was already there.
These new strains are more virulent and resistant to antifungal drugs than other strains, and they pose an increasing public health threat worldwide. The Candida organism in the hospital environment mutates in response to the use of disinfectants and anti-fungal chemicals that are used to keep the hospital environment sterile, and in response to antifungal medications given to patients.
It is important to not use antifungal medications when they aren’t needed, because yeast can mutate so quickly into drug-resistant forms. Fortunately, most kinds of yeast infections outside the hospital are fairly easy to treat, especially if the underlying cause of the infection is corrected.