Difference Between Thrush, Herpes and Yeast Infection

Yeast infection and herpes infection both affect the female genital system and oral cavity. These are the common presentations that may be confusing. Yeast infection is also known as thrush because all candida infections in humans cause a characteristic white discharge. It is important to differentiate between these infections because herpes is a serious condition while yeast can be treated without any lasting harm. This article will talk about these infections and the differences between them in detail highlighting their clinical features, symptoms, causes, investigation and diagnosis, prognosis, and also the course of treatment they require.

What is Yeast Infection / Thrush?

Yeast is a common fungal infection. It is very frequently encountered in women (vaginal candidiasis) and in patients with a poor defense against infections, such as diabetics, post-transplant patients and AIDS patients. It is very important to remember that the sole fact that you have a yeast infection does not mean that you have poor defenses. Yeast is an opportunistic infection. When asthmatic patients use the steroid inhaler for a long time and do not wash their mouths after using the inhaler, yeast infections can start in their mouths. This is called oral candidiasis (oral thrush). It presents as whitish plaques on the back of the tongue and buccal mucosa. There may be foul breath, as well. Regular mouth wash with an anti-fungal solution will clear up the infection very quickly. With oral candidiasis, the infection can spread down along the esophagus and cause esophageal candidiasis (esophageal thrush). Women get vaginal candidiasis very frequently. These women present with itching of genitalia and foul smelling whitish thick creamy vaginal discharge. There may be lower abdominal pain and a burning pain in the genitalia of the male partner after coitus. Some women complain of superficial dyspareunia due to vaginal candidiasis.

While yeast infections can transmit via intimate sexual contact, yeast infection is not medically classified as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Because Yeast transmits via sexual contact and can cause urethritis in the male, it may be considered as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and not a sexually transmitted disease.

Fungal infections are almost always localized. In immunocompromised individuals, they can cause systemic infections. Fungal meningitis is one such example. Fungal infections do not alter the blood contents unless systemic. Lymphocytosis is the major feature.

What is Herpes?

Herpes simplex virus 1 and 2 are responsible for a wide spectrum of disorders. Herpes falls into two main categories according to the site of infection: oro-facial and genital herpes. HSV 1 affects mouth, face, eyes, throat and brain. HSV 2 causes ano-genital herpes. After the virus enters the body, it goes into the nerve cell bodies and remains dormant in ganglions. Antibodies formed against the virus after the first infection, prevent a second infection by the same type. However, the immune system is unable to remove the virus from the body completely. Genital herpes, which is one of the presentations that may form a diagnostic challenge, features clusters of papules and vesicle surrounded by inflamed skin, on the outer surface of penis or labia. Herpes gingivostomatitis affects the gums and mouth. This is the first symptom of herpes in most of the cases. It causes gum bleeding, sensitive teeth and pain in gums. Blisters appear in groups, in the mouth. This comes on more severely than herpes labialis. Herpes labialis presents as groups of characteristic blisters on the lips. These presentations have unique characteristics that set them apart from a simple thrush. In addition to these presentations, herpes may cause other conditions, as well.

Herpetic whitlow is a very painful infection of the finger or toe nail cuticles. Herpetic whitlow is transmitted by contact. Fever, headache, swollen lymph node accompany herpetic whitlow. Herpes meningitis and encephalitis are thought to be due to retrograde migration of virus along nerves to the brain. It affects the temporal lobe mainly. Herpes is the commonest cause of viral meningitis. Herpes esophagitis occurs in immune deficient individuals and features painful difficult swallowing. Bell’s palsy and Alzheimer disease are known association of herpes.

Analgesics and antivirals are the main treatment methods of herpes. Barrier methods can prevent herpes. There is a high risk of transmission to the baby if the mother gets infected during the last days of pregnancy. Aciclovir can be given after 36 weeks. Caesarian section is recommended to minimize contact during delivery.

What is the difference between Thrush Herpes and Yeast Infection?

• Yeast is a fungus while herpes is a viral infection.

• Yeast infection is also known as thrush because all candida infections in humans cause a characteristic white discharge.

• Herpes is considered a sexually transmitted disease while yeast is not by definition.

• While both affect the mouth and the genitalia, yeast causes a thick creamy vaginal discharge and thick creamy oral plaques.

• Herpes, on the other hand, causes small blisters in clusters or otherwise.

• Herpes lesions are painful while yeast lesions are not.

• Yeast usually do not cause lasting systemic infections and does not have a stage where the virus lies dormant in the body like in herpes.

• Herpes infection responds to antivirals while yeast responds to antifungal therapy.


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