What Is the Main Cause of a Yeast Infection?

Medically Reviewed on 3/4/2022
Yeast infections may affect the mouth, skin or vagina.
Yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans and may affect the mouth, skin, or vagina.

Yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans and may affect skin if you have:

  • Warm and wet armpits and groin area
  • Diabetes
  • Excess weight
  • Received antibiotics, steroids, or chemotherapy

You are more likely to get a mouth yeast infection (thrush) if you:

Chances of getting vaginal yeast infections are higher if you:

  • Are receiving antibiotics, steroids, hormones, or chemotherapy.
  • Are pregnant
  • Are taking birth control pills
  • Have diabetes
  • Have other illness that weakens your immunity
  • Are douching (washing inside your vagina with a chemical soap)
  • Wearing  underwear that doesn’t breathe or tight clothes
  • Have sex with an infected partner

What is a yeast infection?

Yeast infections are mainly caused by a yeast-like fungus named Candida or Monilia. This fungus is a normal resident of your body. Usually, your body’s immunity keeps this fungus under control. It causes infection if you are sick or taking any antibiotics. Your mouth, skin, nails, food pipe (esophagus), vagina, or even blood may get infected by this fungus.

What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?

If you have a mouth yeast infection (thrush), you may have:

  • White patches in your mouth
  • Difficulty in swallowing or eating

If you have esophageal (food pipe) yeast infections, you may experience:

Skin yeast infections (including nails) may cause:

If you are a woman and have vaginal yeast infections, then you may experience:

  • Itching and redness in your vagina
  • Unpleasant burning feeling and pain in your vagina
  • Whitish cheesy or yellowish discharge from your vagina
  • Pain during sex


Bacterial Infections 101: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments See Slideshow

How are yeast infections diagnosed?

Your doctor will use different methods of testing yeast infections depending on the area of your infection or symptoms.

If a vaginal yeast infection is suspected by your gynecologist, then they may

  • Examine your private parts
  • Take vaginal fluid samples using a cotton swab
  • Send the samples for further tests
  • Even check your partner

If an oral yeast infection is suspected by your doctor (usually dentist), then they may

  • Examine your mouth and tongue
  • Scrape your mouth sore gently using a cotton swab
  • Examine the sample under the microscope

In case of severe yeast infections in your esophagus, your doctor may

  • Perform endoscopy (insert a tube through your mouth into your stomach and examine the esophagus)
  • Perform a biopsy (take a sample from the throat for a culture test or further laboratory examination)

If you have a skin or nail yeast infection, your doctor (dermatologist) may

  • Examine your skin and nails
  • Scrape off a bit of your skin using a blunt-edged instrument
  • Test your blood sugar level to check for diabetes

8 home remedies for yeast infections

Yeast Infection Diet
Probiotics can help restore the normal bacteria-yeast balance throughout the body. Probiotics are present in fermented foods like yogurt.
  1. Vitamin C:
    • Vitamin C boosts the immune system. A strong immune system can reduce the recurrence of infection. Vitamin C is rich in citric fruits, tomatoes, and may also be taken as supplements. One should avoid the local application of Vitamin C because it is acidic and sensitive to body tissue.
  2. Hydrogen peroxide:
    • Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic but may not work against every species of yeast.
    • Adding hydrogen peroxide to a bath or diluting in water can help with yeast growing on the genitals. Diluting (half water and half hydrogen peroxide) and applying it to the affected area can help. Remember peroxide may cause sores on the skin if used improperly.
  3. Probiotic suppositories and supplements:
    • Probiotics can help restore the normal bacteria-yeast balance throughout the body. Probiotics are present in fermented foods like yogurt. Oral probiotics contain strains of the Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria that can restore the balance between the digestive tract and vaginal flora. Oral supplements can take about 10 days to show effects. Vaginal suppositories have quicker results.
  4. Tea tree oil:
    • Tea tree oil is an essential oil that helps kill fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Tea tree oil is extremely strong, hence it should be diluted with a carrier oil, such as jojoba or coconut oil, before applying to avoid irritation. A vaginal suppository containing tea tree oil should not be taken orally.
  5. Apple cider vinegar:
    • Apple cider vinegar has many medicinal uses. Mixing half a cup of apple cider vinegar into a bathtub with warm water and soaking yourself for 20 minutes can help kill harmful bacteria and fungi, including yeast, due to the acidity of the vinegar. Apple cider vinegar can also be incorporated into the diet.
  6. Oregano oil:
    • Oregano oil made from wild oregano or Origanum vulgare contains thymol and carvacrol, which are powerful antifungals. Mixing 3-5 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil like jojoba oil and applying it to the skin can help but should not be applied close to the vagina. It can also be inhaled through a diffuser.
  7. Coconut oil:
    • Coconut oil has several health benefits, including antibacterial and antifungal properties. Pure, organic coconut oil can be applied directly to the affected area.
  8. Garlic:
    • Garlic is effective against fungus and an effective Candida killer. Garlic may be added to the diet. Applying garlic over the affected area should be avoided because it causes severe burning and pain.

How to prevent yeast infections

The following tips can help reduce the number of episodes or prevent yeast infections:

  • Reducing the consumption of sugar and processed foods
  • Wearing loose-fitting, breathable cotton underwear and clothes
  • Avoiding wearing wet clothes or bathing suits for a long time
  • Avoiding antibiotics unnecessarily without a prescription
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • Maintaining overall body hygiene

When to call a doctor

Home remedies may or may not work to treat yeast infections. Some home remedies may provide relief within a few days while some may take up to a week or longer.

It is advised to consult with a doctor before resorting to home remedies. It is important to seek medical attention if the symptoms worsen, if new symptoms appear at any point during treatment, or if the symptoms do not resolve in 1-2 weeks. Individuals with diabetes should especially visit the doctor before experimenting at home.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/4/2022
Medscape Medical Reference

WHO https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/four-curable-sexually-transmitted-infections---all-you-need-to-know

CDC https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/genital/index.html

WomensHealth.gov https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/vaginal-yeast-infections

National Organization for Rare Disorders https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/candidiasis/

Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/yeast-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20378999

KidsHealth.org https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/yeast-infections.html

Cleveland Clinic https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/5019-yeast-infections

WebMD. Understanding Vaginal Yeast Infections -- Diagnosis & Treatment. https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/understanding-vaginal-yeast-infection-treatment

Medscape. Vulvovaginal Candidiasis. J Midwifery Women’s Health. 2010;55(3):283-284. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/721459