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Yeast Infection - What causes a Yeast Infection on Skin or Elsewhere

Photo courtesy of GrahamColm on Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of GrahamColm on Wikipedia

If asked to explain what a yeast infection is I expect a large number of us would immediately think of a vaginal yeast infection and would be able to describe the symptoms A high percentage of these people might even be able to impress us with their knowledge of the medical description for this infection which is vaginal candidiasis or vulvovaginal candidiasis and also be able to tell you that it is caused by candida albicans.

This answer only explains about one common type of yeast infection and gives us the name of the yeast which causes the majority of these infections. There are many different types of yeast infection and other yeast which cause them.

Culture of Candida Albicans

Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention /Dr. William Kaplan

Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention /Dr. William Kaplan

Dr Whiting on Candida FAQ's and Yeast Infection Causes

More about Yeast

A yeast is a form of fungus and the Candida genus of fungi is a type of yeast. Candida are small thin-walled yeasts measuring between 4 to 6 microns and they reproduce asexually by budding. A small bud forms on the parent cell and the nucleus of the parent cells splits in two with one part migrating to the bud. The bud continues to grow and develop until it is ready to split from the parent cell and become a new free standing cell.

There are currently over 250 known species of Candida of which candida albicans is the most widely known because it is the cause of the largest number of yeast infections. Of the other species of Candida less than ten so far have been found to produce yeast infections in humans and they include candida glabrata, candida dubliniens,candida lusitaniae, candida krusei, candida parapsilosis, or candida tropicalis .

Other yeast groups known to cause illness in humans, include Torulopsis, Cryptococcus, Malassezia, and Trichosporon. Hopefully you will never have need to know about these lesser known yeasts but unfortunately infections from these yeasts have become more common particularly but not always among the immunocompromised.

For example in researching this article I came across a news item by Christine Dell'Amore in the National Geographic News updated in May 2010 which explained that a new strain of hypervirulent, deadly Cryptococcus gattii fungus has been discovered in Oregon. The fungus is already known to have killed six people and it is believed likely to spread into northern California or even further.

Yeast are wide spread organisms that are adapted to living in many different conditions and some yeast such as candida albicans can be found on our skin or within our bodies in the vagina, the mouth or the digestive tract. Most of the time we are able to host these organisms without any difficulty but every now and then a situation occurs where the conditions become more favourable for the yeast and it grows and replicates out of control causing an infection.

Yeast like warm moist surroundings which is why yeast infections so commonly occur in the vagina, or mouth or on areas of the skin such as under the arm or the crotch or between the toes.

Vaginal candidiasis (vulvovaginal candidiasis)

Doctors estimate that approximately 75 percent of all women will experience at least one yeast infection during their lifetimes and over a million women each year in the United States develop a vaginal yeast infection. For all except an unlucky few these infections will not be life threatening but they can certainly be very unpleasant, uncomfortable and frustrating experience.

The symptoms caused can include

  • A painful swollen vulva and vagina
  • Vaginal and labial itching or burning
  • Discomfort when urinating
  • Discomfort during sexual intercourse
  • An abnormal vaginal discharge which varies from being slightly watery and white through to that of the consistency of cottage cheese. The discharge usually has a sweet or bread-like smell

Vaginal candidiasis is not considered a sexually transmitted disease because you don’t need to have sex to develop the condition but it can be transmitted by sexual contact.

Jock Itch


Penile Candidiasis

Having a penile yeast infection is not a common occurrence and it more often arises in men who have not undergone circumcision. The infection rarely originates in the penis and it is most frequently contracted by sexual contact.  It can also be transmitted by using the same items as an infected person such as a towel. 

The symptoms are very similar to a vaginal yeast infection and include

  • A painful swollen penis
  • Itching/burning sensation
  • Discomfort when urinating
  • Discomfort during sexual intercourse
  • There may also be a rash or redness of the infected area

Oral candidiasis (Thrush)

Anyone can develop Oral candidiasis but it is more common in babies and toddlers, older adults particularly denture wearers and those with compromised immune systems.

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The symptoms arewhite, cream colored or yellow spots inside the mouth which can be very painful. These spots are slightly raised and if scraped they will be red underneath and they may bleed. The spots most commonly occur on the tongue and inner cheeks. They can also occur on your gums and tonsils and occasionally on the roof of your mouth. In severe cases the infection can spread to your oesophagus and this can cause problems swallowing and make you feel as if you have food stuck in your throat.

Where a baby who is being breast fed develops thrush the infection can be passed to the mother’s breast.

Intestinal Candidiasis

An individual with an intestinal Candida infection can have a variety of symptoms some of which are

  • chronic diarrhea
  • constipation
  • abdominal bloating,
  • excess gas or flatulence
  • heartburn/indigestion
  • stomach or intestinal cramps
  • rectal itching
  • food allergies/intolerances

Athlete's Foot


Yeast Infection of the Skin

Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ Dr. Lucille K. Georg

Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ Dr. Lucille K. Georg

Yeast Infection on the Skin

There are many different types of skin yeast infections. When they are caused by candida albicans they are known as cutaneous candidiasis. One of the most well known of these infections is diaper or nappy rash

They are also caused by around forty species of the three genus of fungi Microsporum, Epidermophyton and Trichophytonwhich are commonly grouped together and called dermatophytes. Common infections caused by these fungi include athlete’s foot, ringworm Jock (Dhobie) itch, toenail fungus.

The symptoms of yeast infections of the skin depend upon which fungus is the cause and whereon the body the infection is and how long the infection has been left untreated.

Candidal skin infections usually are a flat red rash or groups of rashes which have a defined scalloped edge and they can be painful and cause itching.


Photo courtesy of Grook Da Oger - Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Grook Da Oger - Wikipedia


A yeast infection in the nail or nail beds would often cause swelling of the nail bed with pus. They can be very painful and the nail itself can become thicker and dull and discoloured. It also may separate from the nail bed.

Ringworm not unsurprisingly causes ring-shaped pink or red rashes. The center of each ring is clear and the rash can cause mild itching.

Athlete’s foot is an itchy, scaly rash between and under the toes. It can also cause the skin to peel or crack.

Other symptoms of yeast infections on the skin include dry flaky rashes, pus filled blisters or hair loss if the infection is on the scalp.

Fungal Infection of Thumb Nail

Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Sherry Brinkman

Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Sherry Brinkman

Dr Whiting on Systemic Candida and Yeast Infections

Systemic Yeast Infection

The infections describe so far whilst unpleasant would not be life threatening but yeast infections can be fatal if they spread into the blood stream and to our vital organs.

Intestinal yeast infections can spread in this way as the yeast can penetrate the intestinal walls and then spread to other parts of the body. Yeast do not normally colonize our blood or internal organs and the substances they produce can produce a wide range of symptoms. The holes created in the intestinal walls can also allow other alien substances into our systems.

The symptoms of systemic yeast infection can be reoccurring yeast infections in different parts of the body but it can also cause

  • Depression
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Problems in concentration and poor memory
  • Mood swings
  • Severe premenstrual tension

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice. Always consult you medical advisor about any medical conditions you may have.


Amber Allen (author) on June 18, 2012:

I've just read your own hub on Tinea Versicolor and it is extremely informative and you are clearly very knowledgeable on this topic so your compliment about my writing is very much appreciated.


Michael Willis from Arkansas on June 17, 2012:

Very informative hub. I live with Tinea Versicolor and it is not enjoyable. Yeast infections can happen to anyone. It is good for people to learn more about these conditions. Your hub is a helpful tool for that.

Amber Allen (author) on November 07, 2010:

Hi okmom23

I'm pleased I was able to provide you with new information about yeast infections. Thanks.


Donna Oliver from Midwest, U.S.A. on November 07, 2010:

Amber, this is an extremely well written hub. I learned new information about yeast. Good job!

Amber Allen (author) on September 09, 2010:

Hi katie

You are lucky not to have had a yeast infection. I've only had them a couple of times several years ago when I let myself get very run down. The infection has never reappeared once I got myself back to par. Any type of yeast infection is unpleasant but systemic yeast infection is potentially life threatening. I'm pleased you found my hub explaining what is a yeast infection helpful.


Katie McMurray from Ohio on September 07, 2010:

I'm lucky to have not suffered from a yeast infection as it sounds just as uncomfortable as does the jock itch, Fungal Infection, Athlete's Foot or the dreaded Systemic Yeast Infection. Thank you for bringing the helpful facts and findings regarding yeast infections what is a yeast infection. Now we can better arm our health.

Amber Allen (author) on August 02, 2010:

Hi mega

Thank you for your kind comments. I learnt a lot writing this hub too.


Amber Allen (author) on August 02, 2010:

Hi Art

Thanks for taking the time to visit and comment. Sorry about your lunch!!


mega1 on August 02, 2010:

Very well done and useful and informative! Learned something here!

TattoGuy on August 02, 2010:

Awesome hub moi friend but its just put me off moi lunch ; )

Amber Allen (author) on August 01, 2010:

Hi Pamela

Thanks for being the first to comment and give your thumbs up.


Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 01, 2010:

Excellent information. This is a very well written hub about an important health problem.

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