The Relationship Between Diabetes and Yeast Infections

Symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments

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Candida, or yeast, often lives in the human body as part of its normal bacteria and organisms. When a change occurs, such as a shift in your body’s acidity from infection, condom use, antibiotics, or diabetes, the balance of organisms is disrupted. Candida cells multiply unchecked, resulting in a yeast infection.

Diabetes Makes You More Susceptible to Yeast Infections

While most women will experience at least one yeast infection during the course of their lives, if you have diabetes, you're especially susceptible.

Yeast cells that normally live in the vagina are kept in careful check by the minimally available nutrients in the acidic environment of the vagina.

However, in women and girls with diabetes, vaginal secretions contain more glucose due to higher amounts of glucose in the blood. Yeast cells are nourished by this excess glucose, causing them to multiply and become a yeast infection.

Also, hyperglycemia interferes with the immune functions that help prevent yeast infections. Yeast infections in women with diabetes can mean that your blood glucose levels are not well-controlled or that an infection is brewing in another part of the body.

Yeast Infection Symptoms

Yeast infections often cause itching or discomfort around the vagina, white secretions resembling cottage cheese, foul odor, and pain with urination or sexual intercourse. However, some women don't notice any symptoms with a vaginal yeast infection.

Yeast infections can also occur in other locations, such as moist areas of the feet or skin folds, a dialysis access site, or the mouth (thrush). Any yeast infection can cause discomfort and possibly result in a more serious infection.

Yeast Infection Diagnosis

An examination is done if symptoms are due to a yeast infection and not another source, such as a bacterial infection or sexually transmitted disease.

A microscope may be used to look at a cell sample to confirm the presence of yeast. Occasionally, further laboratory tests may be needed in order to confirm a yeast infection.

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, you should ask your healthcare provider for treatment recommendations. For example, whether you should use a vaginal cream or if oral medications would help. If you experience four or more yeast infections per year, you should ask your healthcare provider to make sure that your diabetes is under control and not causing the yeast infections because of overly high blood sugar.

Why Yeast Infections Are Risky If You Have Diabetes

The presence of yeast in the vagina or other areas blocks the body’s natural defense mechanisms against infection. If you have diabetes and a yeast infection, you're more likely to get other infections as well. This is because the combination of yeast and high blood sugar inhibits your body’s ability to fight off other bacteria and viruses. Any infection in a person with diabetes poses a risk because blood sugars may be much higher or lower than normal while the body tries to fight infection.

Yeast Infection Treatments

Anti-fungal medications, available over-the-counter and by prescription, effectively treat yeast infections in people with diabetes.

You should consult a healthcare professional before starting any new medications because oral antifungals can interact with regular medications. Some people may prefer to use a vaginal medication.

Experts suggest that yeast infections occurring in women with diabetes may require up to two weeks of treatment. Other topical or oral antifungal agents, such as nystatin, are available by prescription to treat yeast infections in areas other than the vagina.

The most important thing to remember when treating a yeast infection, especially if you have diabetes, is to take the full amount of medication recommended by your healthcare provider.

When you stop the medication early because you feel better or the symptoms are gone, the infection can return and be even stronger than before.

Sources:

Atabek ME, Akyurek N, Eklioglu BS. Frequency of Vagınal Candida Colonization and Relationship between Metabolic Parameters in Children with Type 1 Diabetes MellitusJournal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. October 2013;26(5):257-260. doi:10.1016/j.jpag.2013.03.016.

Kauffman, CA. Overview of Candida Infections. UpToDate. Updated January 5, 2016.

Kauffman, CA. Treatment of Oropharyngeal and Esophageal Candidiasis. UpToDate. Updated February 8, 2016.

Office on Women's Health. Vaginal Yeast Infections. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Updated April 18, 2017.

Sobel, JD.Candida vulvovaginitis: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis. UpToDate. Updated November 10, 2017.

Weintrob AC, Sexton DJ. Susceptibility to Infections in Persons With Diabetes Mellitus. UpToDate. Updated December 5, 2016.

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