Yeast infections are fungal infections caused by Candida spores, which are a type of yeast. They most commonly infect the mouth or vagina, though they can also infect the penis. They can become invasive, spreading from the infected area into internal organs.
Because yeast infections are far more likely to impact people with compromised immune systems or who are taking antibiotics, they are often acquired in the hospital setting. Patients there are both more susceptible to yeast infections and less able to fight them off.
Because hospitals should know of these risks and are in the best position to prevent them from happening, they should take steps to keep their patients safe from hospital-acquired yeast infections. When they fail to take those precautions, they should be held accountable by paying compensation to the people who had to deal with a yeast infection they could not avoid. The medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian's Philadelphia law office can help.
A yeast infection is an internal invasion by fungal spores in the Candida family. There are two common sites for a yeast infection:
- The mouth
- The vagina
Oral yeast infections are colloquially called “thrush.” These infections are common among young children (especially those under the age of one), the elderly, and people who have compromised or weak immune systems.
Vaginal yeast infections are extremely common. An estimated three out of every four women suffer a vaginal yeast infection at some point in their life. They are more common for women who are pregnant or who have been sexually active recently.
Most yeast infections – whether oral or vaginal – are not life-threatening and do not spread. However, there is a chance that a yeast infection becomes invasive and spreads to a victim's bloodstream or other organs. One medical study found that, if a yeast infection becomes systemic in patients in the intensive care unit (ICU), up to 50 % of the patients have died from the infection.
Causes of Yeast Infections
Yeast infections are opportunistic, meaning the bacteria that cause them are more or less constantly present but unable to infect someone without help. That help can come in the form of a compromised immune system or the presence of antibiotics that clear the way for an infection.
Candida spores are found everywhere, including on the skin of the vast majority of people in the U.S. It is also already present in the mouths and vaginas of most people. However, the immune system is able to keep a yeast infection at bay, so long as it is functioning anywhere close to normally.
If the immune system's function gets compromised by a disease, medical condition, or other problem, the Candida bacteria that are already present can be enough to overwhelm what is left of it, triggering a yeast infection.
The use of antibiotics can also trigger a yeast infection because antibiotics can kill the very bacteria that are keeping Candida spores in check. By altering the bacterial makeup of a patient's mouth or vagina, antibiotics can tilt conditions in favor of Candida spores, leading to a yeast infection.
Even the use of antibacterial feminine cleaning supplies can lead to a yeast infection. These cleaning regimens can, just like an antibiotic, alter the bacterial makeup of a woman's vagina. When the bacterium that gets cleaned out is what was keeping Candida spores in check, it can lead to a growth of Candida and a yeast infection.
Risk Factors of Yeast Infections
People with compromised, struggling, or weak immune systems are more likely to get a yeast infection. This includes people who:
- Have HIV/AIDS
- Have uncontrolled diabetes
- Recently had an organ transplant or major surgery
- Are taking antibiotics or other medication that impairs the immune system
The following people are especially at risk of developing a yeast infection:
- The elderly, especially if they use dentures
- Young children, especially those under the age of one
- Anyone who has been in the hospital for a long period of time, especially if they were in the ICU
Symptoms of a Yeast Infection
The symptoms of a yeast infection depend on where the infection has occurred.
Oral yeast infections can have the following symptoms:
- A white, patchy discoloration of the tongue, throat, and mouth
- Irritation and tenderness in the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
Vaginal yeast infections can have the following symptoms:
- Itching and burning in the genitals
- A thick, white discharge from the vagina
Yeast Infections in Philadelphia Hospitals
Because hospitals are full of people who have compromised immune systems and who are already fighting off other contagions, yeast infections are especially common.
Because the risks of acquiring a yeast infection are heightened in the hospital, though, healthcare facilities should take extra precautions to make sure their patients are kept safe. Thorough cleaning protocols and handwashing practices should be the norm, and hospital staffers should be required to stick to them.
However, there are times when oversights are made, policies are poorly written, or best practices are not enforced. When this happens, hospital patients are put at risk of developing a hospital-acquired infection, like a yeast infection.
In July 2019, New Jersey hospitals found themselves struggling to contain an especially strong yeast infection caused by the bacteria Candida Auris. That strain of Candida fungi had developed immunity to some of the antibiotics and antifungal regimens that are commonly used to fight and treat yeast infections. The bacteria had been linked to 715 cases of severe yeast infections across the country, with 124 of them happening in nearby New Jersey.
Hospital patients in these situations are virtually powerless to prevent or avoid getting infected. The hospital, meanwhile, has the ability to clean and disinfect rooms and require staffers to adhere to strict hygiene protocols. When the hospital fails to uphold these responsibilities and patients get sick or infected with a yeast infection, they should be held accountable and the victim should be compensated for their experience.
The lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help if you got a yeast infection in a Philadelphia hospital. Contact them online to get started on your case.