Candidiasis (yeast infection)
What is candidiasis?
Candida is a type of yeast, or fungus, and candidiasis is a yeast infection.
There are more than 20 types of Candida and they can live on our bodies causing no problems at all. However, in warm, moist conditions the fungi can multiply and cause infections. These can range from the harmless but irritating, think vaginal thrush or nappy rash, to infections that spread through the entire body, which for those with weakened immune systems can be life threatening.
Examples of candidiasis
It is common for women to get vaginal thrush at some time in their life. This is often referred to as vaginal candidiasis.
Adults can also have yeast infections under the breast and beneath other skin folds.
White plaques from thrush are seen here inside the cheek and under the tongue. Oral thrush is one of the most common
candida infections to affect children. It is also more likely to occur the older we get. Adults can have infections around dentures.
Candida infection has caused soreness and cracks at the sides of the mouth in this picture of an older person.
A candidiasis rash is seen here in the armpit. Usually the skin can block yeast but a cut in the skin, for example from shaving, can allow the organism to penetrate.
This fingernail has a candida infection making it red, swollen and tender.
Symptoms of candidiasis
The symptoms of candidiasis depend on where the infection is.
Candidiasis skin infections cause itchy rashes that are red, flat and have uneven edges.
Typical vaginal thrush symptoms include a white cheesy discharge, an itchy, sore entrance to the vagina, a burning feeling when having a wee and pain when having sex.
Men can also get a yeast infection. Symptoms include a red rash and itching or a burning sensation at the top of the penis.
In oral thrush white patches can form on the tongue and gums. If the white patches are wiped away the tissue beneath may bleed. It may become difficult to eat and the corners of the mouth may crack.
In nappy rash caused by candidiasis there are dark red patches in the folds of the skin, especially near the thighs, and there can also be yellow, fluid-filled spots that can break open and become flaky.
Causes of candidiasis
Yeast overgrowth can be triggered by:
• Contraceptive pills
• Catheters and IV drips
Diagnosis of candidiasis
This is usually made by a physical examination of the area affected and by taking your symptoms into account. Most of the time laboratory tests aren't needed.
Sometimes, if the infection keeps returning, more extensive tests are necessary.
Treatment will depend on age, overall health, where the infection is and how severe it is.
Most candida infections can be treated with over-the-counter medications.
Vaginal thrush can be treated with antifungal cream, tablets or pessaries (tablets which are inserted into, and dissolve in, the vagina).
Nappy rash due to candida can be treated with antifungal cream and by frequently changing baby's nappy.
Oral infections are usually treated with an antifungal mouthwash.
When to seek medical advice about candidiasis
Seek medical advice if:
• The infection is in a child
• It is a first candida infection
• It continues for more than a week after starting treatment
• If symptoms keep returning
• If you already have a weakened immune system from illness or medical treatment.
Outlook for candidiasis
Most candida infections clear up with treatment within 1 to 2 weeks.