Penicillin is a broad spectrum drug which kills all bacteria, including the beneficial ones. Hence, it is often considered the cause behind yeast infections.
Yeast infection is one of the most common types of fungal infections. It has been reported that about 75% of women experience yeast infection at some point of time in their lives. Yeast infection affects men, women and babies alike. However, incidences of yeast infections are more in women due to certain anatomical and hormonal causes. While there are many factors which contribute to yeast infections, infections following an antibiotic treatment are most common. As penicillin is one of the most commonly prescribed antibiotic treatment, we are going to find out how it can cause yeast infections.
How Can Penicillin Cause Yeast Infections
Yeast infection is a result of overgrowth of a fungus named Candida albicans. Under normal circumstances, the growth of yeast is kept under check by some beneficial cultures of bacteria, residing in the body. Yeast is commonly found in mouth, intestinal tract and genitals. Yeast infection in mouth is termed as thrush, whereas the one affecting babies is identified as diaper rash. Beneficial bacteria in gut and vagina are a natural predator of yeast. However, an antibiotic course such as that of penicillin causes mass killing of all kinds of bacteria, including gut flora and vaginal bacteria. In the absence of its predator, yeast thrives and flourishes, causing annoying yeast infection.
How can penicillin be the cause of thrush and yeast infection can only be understood when you look at the composition of penicillin. Penicillin is essentially derived from mycotoxin, a chemical byproduct of fungal origin. It can effectively kill all bacteria and other microbes. Penicillin can be a very useful drug for treating diseases and infections caused by bacteria. However, one drawback of using penicillin for antibiotic treatment is that, it does not discriminate between good and harmful bacteria in the body. Along with the target bacteria, it also eradicates the beneficial ones, which are responsible for maintaining good intestinal health. These bacteria also prevent fungal infections by controlling the growth of harmful Candida albicans.
As soon as penicillin treatment is initiated, the number of vaginal bacteria and gut flora starts depleting. This disrupts the bacteria to fungi ratio in the body. As a result, the fungus starts growing at an uncontrollable rate. Other causes such as hormonal imbalance, diabetes and certain foods may also contribute to disruption of bacteria to fungi ratio. Soon, you will develop painful symptoms of yeast infection such as itching, irritation of vaginal walls, swelling, etc. Women may get a white or yellowish discharge, which often gives out a foul odor. This should be your cue to seek medical intervention.
How to Control Yeast Infection Due to Penicillin
Now that you are aware of the link between antibiotics and yeast infections, you might want to know about the cures for same. While it may not be a wise idea to discontinue your penicillin course, you may take certain measures to keep the fungal growth under check. Over the counter yeast infection drugs with active ingredients such as clotrimazole, miconazole and tioconazole are often helpful in controlling the yeast growth. More often than not, your doctor will prescribe you diflucan along with the penicillin course, to prevent the occurrence of yeast infection. If he does not, you can always get a prescription for this drug or opt for any of the yeast infection prevention drugs found over the counter.
Certain proactive measures may also help you to prevent the occurrence of yeast infection. Increase your consumption of plain yogurt and cheese, which naturally have beneficial bacteria (Lactobacillus acidophilus), before and while you are on penicillin treatment. Applying yogurt directly on the affected area may also help relieve irritation and itching. Some women also benefit a great deal from yogurt baths. However, the yogurt which you use for topical application must be unflavored and unsweetened. Drinking lots of probiotic drinks also helps to restore the balance of good bacteria in your body. Follow a special Candida diet, which is low in sugar and processed food (both of which serve as food to yeast).
While yeast infection is not sexual in origin, it may certainly spread through sexual contact between partners. Hence, it is a must to abstain from sex when you have an active yeast infection. Also, follow extreme hygiene measures and keep the affected area clean and dry at all times. These measures should keep you yeast free even when you are on a penicillin course.