Candidiasis is an infectious disease caused by Candida, a group of yeasts. Of the 20 species of Candida, Candida albicans is most common culprit. These microorganisms are found all over the body. However, they multiply rapidly in moist and warm areas such as underarms, nail beds, vagina, lower abdomen, under the breast, mouth and diaper areas in babies. Rarely, yeast infection may spread throughout the body. Use of steroids and antibiotics, pregnancy, diabetes, menstruation and birth control pills increase the risk of yeast infections in women. People with suppressed or weak immune system, suffering with AIDS and those undergoing cancer treatment are at increased risk for candidiasis.
Candida symptoms vary depending on the site of infection:
Vaginal yeast infection: Candidiasis affecting vagina results in irritation and itching of the vagina and the surrounding tissues, odor free white cheesy discharge, redness and swelling of vulva and pain while urination. In few women intercourse will also be very painful.
Oral candidiasis or oral thrush: Yeast infection targeting the mouth results in worst Candida symptoms that prevent the patient from taking food. Oral thrush is commonly observed in young children and old aged people with very weak immune system that cannot control the growth of yeast. Commonly observed symptoms of thrush include white patches on tongue or on palate that appear like cheese, bleeding of the underlying tissue of the tongue and pain while eating. It is very important for candidiasis patient to take sufficient amount of fluids to prevent dehydration.
Yeast infection of the skin: Small cuts in the outer layers of skin in warm and moist areas such as underarms and diaper areas promote growth of yeasts. Yeast infection of the skin is characterized by appearance of red itchy and painful rashes. In few cases skin around the angles of the mouth becomes soft and develops deep creases.
Penile candidiasis: Observed in men with female partners having vaginal candidiasis. The infection generally causes itching and painful rash on the head of penis and even the scrotum.
Infection of blood and brain: Rarely Candida may enter into the bloodstream causing sickness. Candida symptoms such as altered functioning of the brain are observed if the yeast reaches brain tissues through the bloodstream.
Infection of Gastrointestinal system: In people with very weak immune system yeast infection of the mouth may spread to esophagus and stomach. This makes swallowing of even the fluids worse. If the infection spreads to intestines then absorption of foods gets impaired increasing the risk for dehydration due nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
It is important to seek medical advice if Candida symptoms does not relieve with over the counter drugs and powders. Conditions such as prolonged painful vaginal discharge, oral thrush in children and Candida symptoms in those with weak immune systems should be given immediate medical attention.
Candida symptoms : Treatment
To confirm the presence of yeast infection, physician does general physical examination of the site of infection and a complete gynecological exam is done in case of women with yeast infection symptoms. Vaginal swabs are cultured to rule out other infections.
In case of thrush the doctor may observe mouth swabs under microscope. Blood and urine analysis and CT scan are used to check for the presence of antibodies against yeast in blood, urine and brain tissues. Blood and urine analysis are performed if the symptoms are worse and if the patient has a weak immune system. Vaginal yeast infections should be differentiated from other similar symptoms such as irritation and itching of the vagina and surrounding tissues due to intercourse, use of tampons, perfumes, soaps and deodorants. Endoscopic examination of the stomach, esophagus and upper part of small intestine is performed in case of esophageal thrush.
Mild candidiasis can be treated by using either oral or topical applications available over the counter or upon prescription. Antibiotics ending in “azole” are generally used in treating candidiasis. These antibiotics inhibit the production of ergosterol, component of yeast cells without causing any damage to human cell membranes. As a result yeast cells become leaky and die.
- Miconazole, Tioconazole, butoconazole, terconazole and Clotrimazole are used for treating vaginal yeast infection
- Oral thrush and superficial skin infection is treated by using polyene antifungals such as nystatin. The antifungal cream or lotion is applied around inside of the mouth to treat oral thrush. In adults lozenges may also be used to relieve oral Candida symptoms. For faster healing oral hygiene is very important.
- Clotrimazole ointment or lotion is used to treat diaper rash and other superficial yeast infections of skin.
- Recurring vaginal candidiasis is treated by using oral itraconazole or fluconazole for about six months.
- Fluconazole is, itraconazole and ketoconazole are used as tables or oral liquids to treat yeast infections affecting large areas and when topical medications fail to relieve Candida symptoms. They are also given to people suffering with HIV or cancer and to those who are at high risk of contracting yeast infections.
- Home remedies such as vinegar douches, tea tree oil cream and garlic or boric acid vaginal suppositories are used in the treatment of vaginal yeast infections. However, these remedies are yet to be tested clinically.
- Herbal remedies such as use of juice of herb Echinacea prevent recurring vaginal candidiasis. Oral thrush can be treated by pomegranate gel similar to miconazole gel.
Serious systemic infections are often treated by giving antibiotics such as amphotericin B intravenously. Pregnant women should talk to the doctor before using any medications. If Candida symptoms do not subside within a week take medical advice immediately. Stop using the drugs and report to your doctor if side effects such as fever, vomiting, chills, nausea and abdominal pain are observed.
Precautions to be taken at home for speedy recovery
- Keeping the affected area clean and dry.
- Frequent changing of diapers in case of children with diaper rash.
- Cleaning and sterilizing of all objects used by the patient.
- Salt water rinses help in treating oral thrush.
Prevention of candidiasis
Maintaining good hygiene is the best preventive measure for candidiasis.
- Oral thrush can be avoided by using clean and boiled nipples and pacifiers.
- Mother should clean her nipples after breast feeding. This prevents transferring of yeast infections back and forth between mother and child.
- If you use dentures then do not forget to clean them every day. Soaking the dentures overnight in denture cleaner helps to keep them clean.
- Vaginal candidiasis can be prevented by using cotton panties, avoiding douching and by keeping the area dry.
- Swim suit should be changed immediately after swimming.
Avoiding sugars, cheese, dairy products, processed foods and alcohol helps to keep the infection under control and also promotes faster healing. Use sugar free salad dressings and sauces.