What causes yeast infections?


Quick Answer

According to Mayo Clinic, yeast infections are caused by overgrowth of the microbial fungus Candida. Small populations of this fungus are naturally found in women's reproductive tracts, but their population size is generally held in check by the presence of Lactobacillus bacteria that secrete acid and inhibit the yeast's growth.

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Full Answer

Candida populations can grow out of control when the population of Lactobacillus bacteria is disrupted. According to Mayo Clinic, this can be a result of antibiotic use, frequent douching or an impaired immune system. Yeast infections are also common during pregnancy and in patients with uncontrolled diabetes. Yeast infections may be triggered by nearly anything that alters the presence or proportions of the bacterial populations in the vagina, including intercourse. Candida is known to be infectious, and it can be delivered by oral-genital contact, but doctors generally do not class it as a sexually transmitted disease because of its ubiquity and the multiple non-sexual causes that can trigger an infection.

According to WebMD, the overgrowth of Candida can be triggered by a number of environmental factors. Anything that creates a moist, humid environment for the yeast, such as a wet bathing suit or tight clothing, can increase the risk of a yeast infection developing. To prevent yeast infections, it is recommended that women wipe from front to back after using the toilet, wear cotton underwear and avoid the use of douches and scented powders, soaps and feminine sprays.

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