Candidiasis is a fungal infection that is usually caused by any of the Candida genus of yeasts (hence the name yeast infection or thrush), the most common of which is the Candida albicans. Candida fungi live on all surfaces of your body. Usually, they strike a commensal relationship with you—they don’t harm your body while you provide them with nourishment. Under certain conditions, however, they become so numerous that they can cause several infections, particularly in areas of your body which are warm and moist. Examples of candidiasis infections include thrush, vaginal yeast infection, diaper rash, and nailbed infections. Usually, your skin blocks yeast infections, but if you get any skin breakdowns or cuts, the fungus may enter and start an infection.
In babies, candidiasis usually affects the mouth and diaper areas. In adults, oral infections occur more frequently with age. Yeast infections also happens on the lower abdomen, the breast, and beneath skin folds; they can even occur in dentures. Normally, candidiasis infections are superficial. They easily clear up with proper treatment. Candidiasis is only usually life-threatening when they are confined to severely immunocompromised people, like those suffering from cancer, HIV, or transplant patients. Systemic candidiasis infections also happen and they are very serious, with up to 75% of the patients in danger of dying.
Causes of Candidiasis
Yeasts fungi are the chief cause of candidiasis. Yeast overgrowth can be due to several reasons; the two most common is antibiotic, birth control pills, and steroid use. Natural occurrences like pregnancy, menstruation, and sperm, however, can also be a contributor. A weakened immune system can also make you more susceptible to candidiasis. That is why if you have a condition that cripples your immune system such as cancer, diabetes, or HIV, you will have greater chances of getting candidiasis, and a more dangerous one at that.
Candidiasis can also be transmitted sexually, although it is not considered a sexually-transmitted disease. One of the most common candidiasis infection is the vaginal yeast infection, and a small percentage of men who engage in sexual activities with women afflicted by it develop symptoms like rash and itching. Vaginal candidiasis is usually more troublesome to women than to the men who get an infection from it, but it is not life-threatening.
Tight fitting clothes and pants may also cause candidiasis. These kinds of clothings promote moisture, increase temperature, and induce irritation. Moisture and warm temperature are good places for fungi to grow in, and if you have a crack or cut on the skin in those areas, you will develop candidiasis.
Symptoms and signs of candidiasis will largely depend on the location of the infection.
Vaginal yeast infection for women usually manifests itself as a white cheesy discharge that typically makes the vagina itchy and irritated. The surrounding tissues are also affected. In some cases, the woman may feel pain during sexual intercourse or burning when urinating.
In oral candidiasis, symptoms may include thick, white patches on top of a red base in the tongue, the palate, or elsewhere inside the mouth. The patches can look like milk curds, but they can’t be wiped away as easily as milk. Wiping the patches away with a razor or a cotton-tipped applicator may cause the underlying tissue to bleed. Eating is usually difficult if you have oral candidiasis.
Superficial skin candidiasis may appear as a red rash with sharp, scalloped edges. There may also be smaller patches of rashes appearing nearby, known as “satellite rashes”. The rashes may cause itching and pain.
Getting Rid of Candidiasis
Depending on what type of candidiasis you have, there are several treatments you can do to get rid of the condition, or at least reduce its symptoms. In treating candidiasis though, it is important to consider that the Candida species of fungi are part of the normal human body’s intestinal and oral flora. If you’re going to treat candidiasis with antibiotics, you will run the risk of eliminating the bacterias—the yeast’s natural competitors for resources. The result will be a severity of the condition.
- Use antimycotics. Antimycotics are drugs used to treat fungal infections. The antimycotics usually used to treat candidiasis clotrimazole, nystatin, and ketoconazole, all topical. You may also check for medications containing nitrate, butoconazole nitrate, and tioconazole. All are effective in removing the Candida fungus as well as restore your yeast levels to normal.
- Keep yourself dry and clean. Keeping yourself dry and clean—especially areas that tend to gather moisture—is a good way to inhibit the growth of bacteria. If you have cuts and bruises in these areas of the body, then keep yourself clean at all times. If you’re already infected, then constant cleaning will keep the irritation that comes with the infection at a minimum.
- Wear comfortable and loose clothings. Avoid tight shirts or pants as these will further irritate any candidiasis you may have. Don’t wear synthetic clothings; they do not allow your body and skin to breathe and they trap in moisture and heat—conditions that are very conducive to fungal growth and multiplication.
- Maintain oral hygiene. For oral candidiasis, swish the antifungal nystatin around your mouth. Try to make it a habit to brush your teeth at least three times a day, to inhibit the growth of fungi. If you’re the type who wears dentures, clean them thoroughly after each and every use.
- Eat yogurt. Yogurt that contains the lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria can kill off the excess yeast fungi, stopping and controlling their growth. If you can’t stand the taste of yogurt, there are acidophilus capsules you can buy that are as effective.
- Watch what you eat. Glucose promotes the production of yeast. Control the consumption of anything that has sugar in it. Also, try to limit the intake of food that contains yeast such as wine or bread.
There are a lot of forms of yeast infection. The best way to treat them is proper identification of the kind of candidiasis that you have. You can accomplish this by going to the doctor for a consultation. Remember, knowing is already half the battle.
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