Candidiasis

What is Candidiasis?

Description/Overview

Candidiasis is more commonly known as a yeast infection. Candida occurs naturally in the intestines, on the skin, and on female genitalia. However, it can cause infections that require anti-fungal medication. The most common form of candidiasis infects the vagina, mouth, and/or the skin. It can be very uncomfortable, and it can also cause much more serious complications for those with compromised immune systems and certain diseases. It occurs more frequently when taking antibiotics, while pregnant, and in those with diabetes, cancer or AIDS.

What are the Symptoms of Candidiasis?

The symptoms of candidiasis depend on the location of the infection.

Symptoms include

In the mouth it is more commonly known as trench mouth or thrush, and it causes a sore, red and smooth tongue. The corners of the mouth can become cracked, and milky white patches appear in the mouth. If it infects the esophagus, swallowing can be very painful. When candidiasis infects the skin, it itches and burns. It can also cause certain types of diaper rash in male as well as female babies.

If the infection is severe and spreads to internal areas of the body, the patient can develop a heart murmur, a fever, a decrease in urine output, shock (low blood pressure) and/or an enlarged spleen. When infecting the retina and the inner areas of the eye, blindness can occur.

Candidiasis Causes

In normal circumstances, small amounts of the candida yeast live in the mouth, in the digestive tract, and on the skin harmlessly. Certain environmental circumstances can cause the fungal infection called candidiasis.

Candidiasis of the throat and mouth, called thrush, occurs mostly in infants, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. In infants, thrush is common and usually goes away within a week. It is possible for thrush to infect a breastfeeding mother’s nipples and breast milk ducts, especially after antibiotic use.

Adults are at more risk for thrush if they:

  • Wear Dentures
  • Smoke
  • Take medications that cause dry mouth
  • Use inhaled corticosteroids for treating asthma
  • Have HIV/AIDS, cancer, or diabetes
  • Are undergoing chemotherapy

Candidiasis may also infect the vagina, and is called ‘vaginal candidiasis’, ‘vaginitis’ or, more commonly, ‘vaginal yeast infection’. Vaginal candidiasis is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI) because women who are not sexually active may be infected by it. Note that vaginal candidiasis is not necessarily caused by poor personal hygiene, and that most women in their lifetimes suffer from at least one infection.

Women are more likely to become infected by vaginal candidiasis if they:

  • Are pregnant
  • Use contraceptives that increase estrogen
  • Have HIV/AIDS, cancer, or diabetes
  • Are taking or have recently taken antibiotics
  • Are stressed, have poor eating habits, or are suffering from lack of sleep

More serious and complex candidiasis infections can be life-threatening.

How is Candidiasis Treated?

Candidiasis is easily treated if it has not spread throughout the body and if the patient is otherwise healthy.

Treatment includes

It is typically treated with topical antifungal medication that is applied directly to infected areas of the skin. An oral antifungal drug might also be prescribed.

If the infection has entered other areas of the body, intravenous medication is usually required. Diabetics with candidiasis can assist in a cure by maintaining proper blood sugar levels. Without proper treatment, this type of infection will advance.

Candidiasis Prevention

You can prevent candidiasis infection of the mouth and throat, or thrush.

You can do the following:

  • Practice good oral health skills, such as brushing twice daily and seeing the dentist
  • Clean dentures regularly
  • Treat conditions such as diabetes and keep them well controlled
  • Use a spacer when inhaling asthma medication, and rinse the mouth afterward
  • Use a chlorhexidine mouthwash, usually prescribed by a dentist for short-term use
  • Don’t smoke, or quit smoking if possible

You can also prevent the spread of thrush to infants by washing and boiling bottle nipples and pacifiers, keeping bottles and bottle nipples in the refrigerator, and changing infant diapers immediately after they have been soiled.

A vaginal yeast infection can be prevented by:

  • Wearing cotton underwear, and washing all underwear in hot water
  • Strictly following physician guidelines when being prescribed antibiotics
  • Avoiding vaginal deodorant, scented hygiene products, and douching
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Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
November 22, 2017