Yeast Infections & Diabetes: What You Need to Know
Yeast lives naturally in the human body. However, in certain instances it can lead to infections and those with diabetes are prone to higher risk.
According to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 37 million Americans currently living with diabetes. If you’re one of them, you’re likely well aware of many of the health complications associated with diabetes, from cardiovascular to kidney disease.
In this post, we’ll examine a less critical but important health concern that those with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes face – the increased risk of developing yeast infections, also known as candidiasis and sometimes referred to as thrush.
How do yeast infections develop?
Yeast is always present in our skin and mucus membranes. In fact, it’s a good thing as it helps keep surrounding bacteria in check. The problem occurs when too much yeast is allowed to collect in parts of the body. This can result in what’s commonly called a yeast infection. They tend to occur in moist areas of the body, such as the folds of the skin, the feet, mouth, and the vagina. Genital yeast infections are possible in men, but far less common.
The link between diabetes and yeast infections
There are two primary reasons those with diabetes face a higher risk of yeast infections.
Yeast thrives on sugar
When a person’s diabetes isn’t properly managed and blood sugar isn’t well-controlled through regular blood sugar testing, insulin treatments and/or other medication, it causes sugar to build up in the bloodstream. Yeast feeds on sugar, so when there’s more of it in the body that means yeast has extra fuel to grow and colonize at unhealthy levels. The body tries to release this excess sugar through sweat glands, mucus, urine, and vaginal secretions, which increases the amount of sugar in certain parts of the body, including the mouth, skin, and genitals.
Compromised immune system
Scientists have found a direct correlation between diabetes and immune function. It’s believed that diabetes, particularly when left uncontrolled, can suppress certain immune proteins, called beta-defensins, that help the body fight off infections, including yeast infections. When the immune system is compromised and there is excess sugar in the bloodstream, it essentially gives yeast the green light to colonize.
Common types of yeast infections
Yeast infections can manifest in a number of different areas of the body. Here are some of the most common.
This type of yeast infection is called “cutaneous candidiasis” and it’s distinguished by changes to the color of the skin and the development of itchy patches of various shapes and sizes.
Called oral candidiasis or oral thrush, this type of yeast infection can cause painful white sores to develop in the mouth and throat. This is often accompanied by a bitter taste or a loss of taste, along with cracking and redness in the corners of the mouth.
Though not as common as other types, yeast infections of the eyes are quite serious. Symptoms include redness, burning, blurry vision, watery eyes or discharge, and a sensitivity to light. If left untreated, these infections can lead to vision loss.
Athlete’s foot is a common type of yeast infection. In those with diabetes, due to compromises in immunity and the possibility of diabetic nerve damage, simple athlete’s foot can lead to the formation of ulcers that must be treated to prevent more serious infection. If you have diabetes, it is important to inspect your feet regularly for signs of fungal infections, blisters, or open sores.
Vaginal yeast infection
Genital yeast infections are far more common in women than men with symptoms that include vaginal itching and a burning sensation. It’s also common to notice a white discharge accompanied by an unpleasant or abnormal odor. Many women also experience a burning sensation while urinating when a yeast infection is present.
If you experience any of these symptoms, see your gynecologist or healthcare provider. You’ll likely receive a pelvic exam, and a swab will be taken of the vaginal area to check for the presence of yeast.
Treating yeast infections
There are several treatments available for yeast infections and your doctor will determine which one is right for you, depending on what type of yeast infection you have and the severity of the condition.
Treatment options include topical creams applied directly to the area, usually for up to 7 days. Suppositories can also be used to treat vaginal infections.
Many of these products are available over the counter, but it’s important for someone with diabetes to speak to their doctor before using any medication.
If topical treatment doesn’t remedy the situation, your doctor may prescribe an oral medication that usually does the trick.
How do I prevent yeast infections?
There’s no way to entirely eliminate your risk of developing a yeast infection. They occur for a number of reasons. However, you can lower your risk by maintaining proper control over your diabetes and blood sugar. This will help prevent an excess buildup of blood sugar, which yeast feeds on, and help you maintain a stronger immune system.
- Test your blood sugar regularly using a glucose meter and test strips or a continuous glucose monitoring device (CGM) prescribed by your diabetes physician.
- Eat right and make sure you get in at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week, as recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA)
- Follow your doctor-prescribed medication plan, which might include insulin treatments by syringe or insulin pen, as well as oral medication.
Additional tips to prevent vaginal yeast infections:
- Wear breathable underwear that is not overly tight
- Wash your vagina regularly and dry thoroughly
- During your period, change tampons or pads frequently
- Avoid douching with products containing perfumes or dyes
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat probiotic foods such as yogurt
Individuals living with diabetes are automatically at a higher risk of developing yeast infections than those without the disease. However, properly managing your blood sugar can dramatically lower your individual risk and will help minimize the frequency and severity of yeast infections should you develop them. If you experience any signs of a yeast infection, see your doctor right away. These problems can usually be resolved quickly and easily with the proper care and treatment.
We hope you found this post informative and insightful. At Diabetic Warehouse, we committed to helping those with diabetes manage their disease with a complete selection of testing and treatment supplies at prices up to 65% less those found at most pharmacies and suppliers.
Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including glucose meters and test strips, insulin syringes, pen needles, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.