Yeast and other bacterial infections are very commonly encountered in general practice. It is very important for the medical practitioner as well as the layman to differentiate between the two. Clear cut differences are there between yeast infection and bacterial infections. Identification will prevent a lot of worry for the patient.
Yeast, Fungal Infections
Yeast is a common fungal infection. Candida albicans is the fungus responsible for the infection. Yeast lives without causing any harm on skin, throat, and vagina. Candida may infect the same sites if an opportunity arises. Yeast infection is also known as thrush because all candida infections in humans cause a characteristic white discharge. Therefore, oral thrush, esophageal thrush and vaginal thrush are the commonest yeast infections encountered in humans. It is very frequently encountered in women (vaginal candidiasis) and in patients with 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, 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.
Though yeast infections can transmit via intimate sexual contact, yeast infection is not medically classified as a sexually transmitted disease. 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 (STD). (Read the Difference Between STD and STI)
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.
Bacterial infections are one of the most common presentations at hospitals as well as general practice. Bacteria are everywhere. Therefore, it is no surprise that we come down with the occasional infection. Simple localized infections usually cause inflammatory features. Pain, redness, swelling, and warmth are the four main features. If the bacterium is virulent, there may be suppuration and abscess formation. Bacteria may spread from localized lesions into underlying tissues and then into the bloodstream. Presence of multiplying bacteria in the blood stream is called septicemia. This is a life threatening condition and needs urgent intravenous antibiotic therapy.
Bacterial infections cause unique changes in the full blood count. Extra cellular bacteria cause a neutrophil leukocytosis while intra cellular bacteria cause a lymphocytosis. A positive blood culture is diagnostic of a septicemia. There are many antibiotics capable of destroying bacterial infections. Some bacteria are resistant to antibiotics. Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus is one such organism. Antibiotics may be started empirically or after confirming the infection and antibiotic sensitivity.
What is the difference between Yeast Fungal and Bacterial Infection?
• Bacterial infections can be localized as well as systemic while yeast infection is localized most of the time.
• Bacterial infections cause leukocytosis while fungi cause lymphocytosis.
• Bacterial infections need antibiotics while fungi need antifungal medications. (Read the Difference Between Antibiotic and Antimicrobial)
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