Candida albicans Biofilms and Human Disease
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What Is Candida Albicans?
This ordinary type of yeast can lead to painful, irritating yeast infections.
Candida albicans is a species of yeast — a single-celled fungus — that's a normal part of the microbes that live in your gastrointestinal tract.
Small amounts of the yeast also live in various warm, moist areas throughout the body, including the mouth, rectum, vagina, and parts of your skin.
Its numbers are naturally kept in check by the bacteria and other microorganisms that make up your microbiome, the community of microorganisms that inhabit your body.
However, different factors can throw off your microbial balance, tipping the scales in favor of C. albicans and allowing the fungus to grow out of control and cause a yeast infection called candidiasis.
These factors include:
- Antibiotics, which kill both pathogenic (disease-causing) and beneficial bacteria
- HIV and other conditions that impair the immune system, including steroids and chemotherapy
Vaginal Yeast Infection
Though it causes about 90 percent of yeast infections, Candida albicans is not the only species from the Candida genus that lives in the body.
Other common species include C. glabrata, C. parapsilosis, C. tropicalis, and C. krusei.
Some studies estimate that about 20 percent of asymptomatic, healthy women have Candida living in their vaginas (though some estimates place that number much higher, at 80 percent), according to a June 2007 report in the journal The Lancet.
But C. albicans comprises 85 to 95 percent of the Candida yeast strains isolated from the vagina, the report notes.
These fungi make their way into the vagina from the anus.
An overgrowth of C. albicans (or other Candida species) in the vagina causes a yeast infection, also known as candida vaginitis or vulvovaginal candidiasis.
Common symptoms include:
- Vaginal itching and a burning sensation in the vaginal region, including the labia and vulva
- White vaginal discharge that's sometimes described as being similar in consistency to cottage cheese
- Pain during urination or sex
- Redness and swelling of the vulva
Vaginal yeast infections are typically treated with antifungal creams or suppositories purchased over-the-counter (OTC) or through prescription.
Most yeast infections resolve within a few days after treatment starts.
Thrush and Invasive Candidiasis
Candida albicans is a very common fungus found in the mouth of people of all ages.
For instance, the fungus lives in the mouths of 30 to 45 percent of healthy adults, according to a report in the Postgraduate Medical Journal.
Despite this prevalence, an oral infection by C. albicans, which is called thrush or oral candidiasis, is not very common in the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Thrush mainly affects the very young, the old, and people with weakened immune systems (including people using steroids).
Symptoms of thrush include creamy white sores in the mouth, including on the tongue, inner cheeks, and gums, and pain during swallowing.
If a mild thrush infection develops after antibiotic use, consuming probiotics or yogurt with active cultures, or taking over-the-counter Lactobacillus acidophilus (a beneficial bacteria) pills, may be all that's required, as these treatments help restore the normal balance of microbes in the mouth.
More serious infections require antifungal medications, including special mouthwashes and lozenges.
Candidiasis is an infection caused by a yeast (a type of fungus) called Candida. Candida normally lives inside the body (in places such as the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina) and on skin without causing any problems. Sometimes Candida can multiply and cause an infection if the environment inside the vagina changes in a way that encourages its growth. Candidiasis in the vagina is commonly called a “vaginal yeast infection.” Other names for this infection are “vaginal candidiasis,” “vulvovaginal candidiasis,” or “candidal vaginitis.”
The symptoms of vaginal candidiasis include:1,2
- Vaginal itching or soreness
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Pain or discomfort when urinating
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
Although most vaginal candidiasis is mild, some women can develop severe infections involving redness, swelling, and cracks in the wall of the vagina.
Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms. These symptoms are similar to those of other types of vaginal infections, which are treated with different types of medicines. A healthcare provider can tell you if you have vaginal candidiasis and how to treat it.
Risk & Prevention
Who gets vaginal candidiasis?
Vaginal candidiasis is common, though more research is needed to understand how many women are affected. Women who are more likely to get vaginal candidiasis include those who:
- Are pregnant
- Use hormonal contraceptives (for example, birth control pills)
- Have diabetes
- Have a weakened immune system (for example, due to HIV infection or medicines that weaken the immune system, such as steroids and chemotherapy)
- Are taking or have recently taken antibiotics
How can I prevent vaginal candidiasis?
Wearing cotton underwear might help reduce the chances of getting a yeast infection.2 Because taking antibiotics can lead to vaginal candidiasis, take these medicines only when prescribed and exactly as your healthcare provider tells you. Learn more about when antibiotics work and when they should be avoided.
Scientists estimate that about 20% of women normally have Candida in the vagina without having any symptoms.2 Sometimes, Candida can multiply and cause an infection if the environment inside the vagina changes in a way that encourages its growth. This can happen because of hormones, medicines, or changes in the immune system.
Diagnosis & Testing
Healthcare providers usually diagnose vaginal candidiasis by taking a small sample of vaginal discharge to be examined under a microscope in the medical office or sent to a laboratory for a fungal culture. However, a positive fungal culture does not always mean that Candida is causing symptoms because some women can have Candida in the vagina without having any symptoms.
Vaginal candidiasis is usually treated with antifungal medicine.3 For most infections, the treatment is an antifungal medicine applied inside the vagina or a single dose of fluconazole taken by mouth. Other treatments may be needed for infections that are more severe, that don’t get better, or that keep coming back after getting better. These treatments include more doses of fluconazole taken by mouth or other medicines applied inside the vagina, such as boric acid, nystatin, or flucytosine.
If you are a healthcare provider, please refer to:
Vaginal candidiasis is common. In the United States, it is the second most common type of vaginal infection after bacterial vaginal infections.2 An estimated 1.4 million outpatient visits for vaginal candidiasis occur annually in the United States.4 The number of vaginal candidiasis cases in the United States is unknown.
- Gonçalves B, Ferreira C, Alves CT, Henriques M, Azeredo J, Silva S. Vulvovaginal candidiasis: epidemiology, microbiology and risk factorsexternal icon. Criti Rev Microbiol 2016;42:905-27.
- Sobel JD. Vulvovaginal candidosisexternal icon. Lancet 2007;369:1961-71.
- Pappas PG, Kauffman CA, Andes DR, Clark CJ, Marr KA, Ostrosky-Zeichner L, et al. Clinical practice guideline for the management of candidiasis: 2016 update by the Infectious Diseases Society of Americaexternal icon. Clin Infect Dis 2016;62:e1-50.
- Benedict K, Jackson BR, Chiller T, Beer KD. Estimation of direct healthcare costs of fungal diseases in the United Statesexternal icon. Clin Infect Dis. 2018 Sep 10.
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7 Symptoms of Candida Overgrowth (Plus How to Get Rid of It)
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Many types of fungi live in and on the human body, including the genus of yeasts known as Candida.
Candida is typically found in small amounts in the mouth and intestines and on the skin.
At normal levels, the fungus is not problematic.
However, when Candida begins to grow uncontrollably, it can cause an infection known as candidiasis.
In fact, Candida is the most common cause of fungal infections in humans (, ).
Typically, the healthy bacteria in your body keep Candida levels under control.
However, if healthy bacteria levels are disrupted or the immune system is compromised, Candida can begin to overproduce.
Below are a few factors that can lead to Candida overgrowth (, , , , , ):
a diet high in sugar and refined carbs
weakened immune system
When Candida begins to overproduce, it can lead to various health problems.
This article explores 7 symptoms of Candida overgrowth and how you can treat it.
1. Oral Thrush
Candidiasis that develops in the mouth or throat is called “thrush.”
It’s most common in newborns, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system ().
Individuals with poor oral hygiene or removable dentures are also at an increased risk ().
People with oral thrush typically develop white, bumpy patches on their tongue, inner cheeks, gums, tonsils or throat ().
The lesions can be painful and may bleed slightly when scraped.
Oral thrush is also often associated with redness or soreness of the tongue and mouth ().
In very bad cases, it can spread to the esophagus and cause pain or difficulty swallowing.
Summary: When there is
too much Candida in the mouth, it can cause white, bumpy
lesions, redness and pain in the mouth and throat. This is also known as oral
2. Tiredness and Fatigue
One of the most common symptoms associated with Candida is fatigue.
While there’s no evidence that Candida causes fatigue, there are a couple of ways in which it could contribute to it.
First, candidiasis is often accompanied by nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B6, essential fatty acids and magnesium (13).
Particularly, magnesium deficiency has been known to cause fatigue ().
Second, Candida infections commonly occur when the immune system is weakened.
A low-functioning immune system in itself may leave you feeling tired and fatigued.
One study suggests that prolonged candidiasis of the gut may even be a potential cause of chronic fatigue syndrome ().
Summary: Candidiasis is
most common in individuals with a weakened immune system and may be accompanied
by various nutritional deficiencies. This can leave you feeling tired and
3. Recurring Genital or Urinary Tract Infections
Candida is found in the vaginal tracts of most women.
An overgrowth of it can lead to candidiasis of the vagina, also known as a yeast infection.
It’s estimated that 75% of all women will get at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime, and half of those will have at least one recurrence ().
Men can also get genital yeast infections, but it’s much less common.
Symptoms of vaginal candidiasis include redness, swelling, itching, painful intercourse and a thick, white discharge from the vagina.
Although it’s much less common, Candida can also cause a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Candida-related urinary tract infections are most common in the elderly, hospitalized or immune-compromised individuals ().
Symptoms of a UTI include a burning feeling when you urinate, a frequent urge to urinate, cloudy, dark or strange-smelling urine and pain or pressure in your lower abdomen.
Although, other bacteria like E. coli are more likely to cause UTIs.
However, if you suffer from recurring infections and believe they are a result of Candida overgrowth, you can have your urine tested to find out.
cause genital and urinary tract infections, both of which can lead to pain and
4. Digestive Issues
The health of your digestive system relies heavily on a good balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria that live in your gut.
The “good” bacteria that normally reside in your gut are important for digestion, as they help process starches, fibers and some sugars.
When the bacteria in your gut become imbalanced, you can experience digestive issues, including constipation, diarrhea, nausea, gas, cramps and bloating.
Recent studies indicate that an overgrowth of Candida is associated with several diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease ().
Summary: Having small
amounts of Candida in your gut is normal. However, if it
starts to overproduce, it may cause various gut-related symptoms.
5. Sinus Infections
Chronic sinus infections affect one in eight adults in the US ().
Common symptoms include a runny nose, nasal congestion, loss of smell and headaches.
Although short-term sinus infections are mostly caused by bacteria, many longer-term, chronic sinus infections are believed to be fungal.
A study by the Mayo Clinic looked at a group of 210 individuals with chronic sinus infections and found that 96% of them had fungi in their mucus (20).
Antibiotics are the usual method of treating sinus infections. This may work for acute bacterial sinus infections, but not chronic fungal ones.
In fact, treating a chronic sinus infection with antibiotics could actually make it worse.
If you have sinus infections that last longer than one month, Candida may be to blame.
Summary: Many chronic
sinus infections are believed to be caused by fungi. If you have a sinus
infection that lasts longer than one month, Candida may be the
6. Skin and Nail Fungal Infections
Just like in your gut, there are bacteria on your skin that prevent Candida from growing uncontrollably.
All bacteria thrive in different conditions, including varying temperature, moisture or acidity levels.
That’s why a change in the environment on your skin can allow Candida to overproduce.
For example, cosmetics, soaps and moisturizers can alter skin conditions, especially the antibacterial varieties.
While skin candidiasis can affect any part of the body, areas that are warm and moist, such as the armpits and groin, are particularly prone to infection.
Itching and a visible rash are the two most common symptoms of skin fungal infections.
An overgrowth of Candida can cause conditions like athlete’s foot, ringworm and toenail fungus ().
While not life threatening, skin fungal infections can be very uncomfortable and significantly decrease quality of life.
Summary: An overgrowth
of Candida on the skin can cause conditions like athlete’s
foot, ringworm and nail fungal infections.
7. Joint Pain
If a Candida infection enters your bloodstream and travels through your body, it can infect the joints and cause arthritis ().
This typically only happens after surgery or when an overgrowth of Candida is left untreated for an extended period of time.
Candida arthritis is associated with pain, stiffness and swelling in your joints.
Hips and knees tend to be the most commonly infected.
Candida can also cause bone infections, or osteomyelitis, which can cause pain and tenderness in the infected area ().
Bone and joint infections are not very common, but once you are infected, they can be very difficult to get rid of.
Summary: If an overgrowth
of Candida is left untreated, it can enter your bloodstream
and travel throughout your entire body. When this happens, Candida can
infect bones and joints, causing pain, stiffness and swelling.
How to Fight Candidiasis
The best way to treat candidiasis and prevent recurring infections is to address the underlying cause.
The food you eat plays an important role in maintaining the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut.
Refined sugars, carbs and high-lactose dairy products can encourage Candida and other “bad” microorganisms to grow ().
Eating too many of these foods may promote infection if you have a suppressed immune system.
On the other hand, certain foods have specifically been shown to encourage “good” bacteria to grow and inhibit the growth of Candida.
The following foods have been shown to help fight Candida infections:
If you require medication, speak to your healthcare provider.
If you require medication, speak to your healthcare provider.
- Garlic:Garlic contains
an antifungal substance called allicin, which has been shown to act
against Candida yeasts in animal and test-tube studies (, ).
- Coconut oil:Coconut oil is
high in lauric acid, which has been shown to fight Candida infections
in multiple test-tube studies (, ).
- Curcumin: Test-tube studies indicate
that curcumin may
kill Candida yeasts, or at least reduce their growth (, , , ).
- Xylitol: In one test-tube study, xylitol helped
fight Candida, decreasing its ability to stick to a surface and
cause infection ().
- Aloe vera: Aloe vera gel may inhibit the
growth of Candida in the mouth and prevent infections ().
- Pomegranate: A test-tube study indicated that
the plant compounds in pomegranate are
beneficial against Candida yeasts ().
- Kombucha:Kombucha tea is
rich in tea polyphenols and acetic acid, both of which have been shown to
kill Candida in test-tube studies ().
- Probiotics:Probiotics like Lactobacillus may
reduce Candida growth and protect against infections ().
You can find some of these, such as coconut oil, aloe vera gel, kombucha, probiotic supplements, and xylitol online.
Albicans infection candida
About Candida albicans: Natural yeast and problematic infections
What is Candida albicans?
Candida albicans is part of our natural microflora — or the microorganisms that commonly live in or on our bodies. It can be found in the GI tract, the mouth, and the vagina.
Most of the time it causes no issues, but it’s possible for overgrowths and infections to happen.
Candida albicans is the cause of fungal infections in people. Its species name, albicans, comes from the Latin word for “white.” The yeast appears white when cultured on a plate. And in the case of certain infections, like thrush, it can create white patches.
We look more closely at types of Candida albicans infections and how they’re treated.
Types of Candida albicans infections
Below, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment of four of the most common types of Candida infection. In the next section we’ll go over the less common infections that Candida albicans can also cause.
Urinary yeast infection
Candida species are the most common cause of fungal urinary tract infections (UTIs). Candida UTIs can occur in the lower portion of the urinary tract or in some cases can ascend up to the kidneys.
The following can put you at risk of developing a Candida UTI:
- having taken a course of antibiotics
- having a medical device inserted, such as a urinary catheter
- a weakened immune system
Many people with a Candida UTI don’t have symptoms. If symptoms are present, they can include:
- an increased need to urinate
- a painful or burning sensation when urinating
- abdominal or pelvic pain
- blood in your urine
Treatment is only recommended for symptomatic individuals. The antifungal drug fluconazole can be used in many cases.
If a catheter is in place, it should be removed.
Genital yeast infection
Candida albicans is the most common cause of genital yeast infections.
Normally, a type of bacteria called Lactobacillus keeps the amount of Candida in the genital area under control. However, when Lactobacillus levels are disrupted in some way, Candida can overgrow and cause an infection.
You can also develop a Candida genital infection after participating in certain sexual activities, particularly those that involve oral-genital contact.
Although otherwise healthy individuals can get genital Candida infections, the following groups are at an increased risk:
- people that have taken antibiotics recently
- people with uncontrolled diabetes
- immunosuppressed individuals
- pregnant women
- people that are taking oral contraceptives or who are on hormone therapy
Symptoms of a genital Candida infection can include:
- a burning feeling while having sex or while urinating
- an itchy or painful feeling in or around the vagina
- redness, irritation, or swelling around the vagina
- abnormal vaginal discharge that can be either watery, or thick and white
- a rash around the vagina
- a rash on the penis
Candida species can also infect the male genitals, often if their partner has a vaginal Candida infection. The infection may be asymptomatic, but can cause an itchy or burning rash around the head of the penis.
Mild or moderate genital Candida infections can be treated with a short course of an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription antifungal cream, pill, or suppository. You could also be prescribed a single dose of an oral antifungal medication, such as fluconazole.
For more complicated infections, you may be prescribed a longer course of medication, either in the form of a cream, a pill, or an ointment.
Despite being a normal part of the microflora of your mouth, Candida albicans can cause infections if it overgrows. The infection may not be limited to just your mouth. It can spread to your tonsils and the back of your throat as well.
Severe infections may spread to the esophagus.
People that are at an increased risk for developing oral thrush include:
- those taking antibiotics or corticosteroid drugs
- someone with undiagnosed or uncontrolled diabetes
- immunosuppressed individuals
- those who wear dentures, particularly upper dentures
Some of the common symptoms of oral thrush include:
- white spots in your mouth that have the appearance of cottage cheese and may bleed when touched
- a burning or painful sensation in your mouth
- redness inside your mouth or at the corners of your mouth
- difficulty with eating or swallowing
- loss of taste
- a cotton-like feeling inside your mouth
If an oral thrush infection is left untreated, it can lead to a systemic Candida infection, particularly in people with a weakened immune system.
Oral thrush is treated with an antifungal medication that can come in the form of a pill, liquid, or lozenge. Examples of drugs that are used include nystatin or clotrimazole.
An oral course of fluconazole can be given for more severe cases.
Candida species can also infect your skin and mucus membranes.
Candida albicans is most often the cause of a fungal skin infection, although other Candida strains can also cause it.
Areas that are warm, moist, or sweaty provide good environments for yeast to thrive. Examples of such areas include the armpits, groin, the skin between your fingers and toes, the corners of your mouth, and the area under your breasts.
Other risk factors for developing a Candida skin infection include:
- wearing tight or synthetic undergarments
- having poor hygiene or changing undergarments infrequently, including infrequent diaper changes for infants
- taking antibiotics or corticosteroid drugs
- having diabetes
- having a weakened immune system
The most common symptom of a Candida skin infection is a red rash that forms in the affected area.
In some cases, blister-like lesions can form. The skin may also become thickened or produce a white substance that has a curd-like appearance.
Antifungal creams are typically given to clear the skin infection. They can contain antifungal drugs such as clotrimazole, miconazole, and econazole.
A steroid cream may also be given to help ease any itching or swelling. The skin should also be kept dry while recovering.
In cases where the infection is widespread, oral fluconazole pills may be prescribed.
How are Candida infections diagnosed?
In order to diagnose candidiasis, your doctor will first take your medical history and ask you about your symptoms. They may also ask if you have any conditions or medications that could lead to a weakened immune system, or if you’ve taken a course of antibiotics recently.
Many common cases of candidiasis can often be diagnosed through a physical examination.
If your doctor is uncertain if your symptoms are due to a Candida infection, they may take a sample from the affected area. This sample can then be used to culture the organism and to identify what species it is. For example, if candidemia is suspected, your doctor will collect a blood sample for testing.
Identifying the species of Candida that’s causing your infection is also helpful because your doctor will be able to prescribe an antifungal medication that will be effective in treating that particular species.
Other Candida infections
If Candida albicans enter your bloodstream, they can cause serious infections not only in your blood but in other organs as well.
Neutropenia — a key risk factor
An important risk factor for developing more invasive Candida conditions is neutropenia. This is when there are abnormally low levels of cells called neutrophils in your blood. It can make you more prone to infections.
People that are commonly affected by neutropenia include people undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer, and people with leukemia or other bone marrow diseases.
Individuals that have neutropenia and an invasive Candida infection have different treatment recommendations.
Candidemia is a blood infection with Candida species. It can lead to long hospital stays and an increase in mortality due to concurrent conditions.
Risk factors for candidemia include:
- use of broad-spectrum antibiotics
- major surgery
- placement of a medical device such as a feeding tube or catheter
Symptoms can resemble those of bacterial sepsis and can include:
Diagnosis and treatment
Candidemia can be diagnosed when the yeast is isolated from a blood sample.
Treatment may depend on the species of Candida causing the infection, but can include IV doses of fluconazole, caspofungin, micafungin, or amphotericin B. Catheters should also be removed.
Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart, which includes the heart chambers and valves.
Fungal endocarditis is a very serious condition with a high mortality rate. Candida albicans is responsible for of all cases of fungal endocarditis.
Risk factors for developing this condition include:
- a weakened immune system
- heart abnormalities or defects
- prolonged antibiotic use
- cardiovascular surgery
- implantation of medical devices, such as a feeding tube, catheter, or prosthetic heart valves
Symptoms of fungal endocarditis can include:
- difficulty breathing
- generalized body pain, sometimes in the lower extremities
Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosis can be difficult because symptoms are often similar to endocarditis caused by bacteria.
Treatment may include intravenous (IV) fluconazole or amphotericin B, removal of any infected medical device, and possible surgical removal of fungus from the tissue.
Endophthalmitis is an inflammation of the eye that can be caused by fungus. It can lead to loss of vision.
Candida albicans is the most common Candida species involved, although Candida tropicalis can also cause the infection.
Risk factors for endophthalmitis are:
- recent hospitalization
- recent surgery
- a weakened immune system
- having a medical device such as a catheter or IV inserted
The condition can affect one or both eyes. The main symptom is inflammation in the eye, although in some cases pus can be present in the tissues of the eye.
Diagnosis and treatment
Endophthalmitis can be diagnosed through a retinal examination as well as by analyzing a sample of fluid from your eye.
Treatment can include amphotericin B with flucytosine. Fluconazole can also be used.
Meningitis is the inflammation of the tissues that surround your brain and spinal cord. Fungal meningitis can occur when fungus travels through the blood to your spinal cord. Fungal meningitis caused by Candida is often acquired within a hospital.
Factors that can put you at risk for meningitis caused by Candida can include:
- certain medications such as antibiotics, immunosuppressants, or corticosteroids
- a recent surgical procedure
Symptoms of fungal meningitis include:
- stiff neck
- nausea and vomiting
- sensitivity to light
Diagnosis and treatment
If a fungus is suspected for causing your meningitis, a sample of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) will be taken and cultured.
The recommended treatment of meningitis caused by Candida species is amphotericin B with flucytosine.
Intra-abdominal candidiasis can also be referred to as Candida peritonitis. It’s an inflammation of the lining of your inner abdomen caused by a yeast infection.
The condition is most commonly caused by Candida albicans although other Candida species can cause it as well.
Some risk factors for developing intra-abdominal candidiasis include:
- a recent abdominal surgery or procedure
- undergoing peritoneal dialysis
- antibiotic therapy
- conditions such as diabetes
The symptoms of intra-abdominal candidiasis can be very similar, if not indistinguishable, from bacterial peritonitis. Symptoms can include:
- pain or bloating in your abdomen
- nausea and vomiting
- feeling tired or fatigued
- diminished appetite
In order to diagnose the condition, your doctor will take a sample of abdominal fluid (peritoneal fluid). If Candida is causing the infection, yeast will be observed in the sample.
Treatment can include antifungal drugs such as:
- amphotericin B
Catheters should be removed as well.
Osteomyelitis and fungal arthritis
Osteomyelitis is a bone infection while fungal arthritis (also called septic arthritis) is a fungal infection of a joint. Both conditions can be caused by Candida species, although this is rare. Bacterial infections are more common.
Risk factors for developing these conditions can include:
- having a weakened immune system
- experiencing a recent bone injury or orthopedic procedure
- having an IV or a catheter
- conditions such as diabetes
Symptoms of these conditions include pain or swelling in the affected area that can be accompanied by fever or chills. People with fungal arthritis can also have great difficulty using the affected joint.
In order to determine if a fungal infection is causing osteomyelitis, a bone biopsy may be needed. Analysis of joint fluid can determine if arthritis is due to a fungal infection.
If a blood infection caused either condition, Candida may also be detected in the blood.
Treatment can include courses of antifungal medication such as amphotericin B and fluconazole.
Candida albicans and you
Normally, Candida species are a part of the natural microflora of the GI tract, skin, and vagina, and don’t cause disease. Some circumstances, such as taking a long course of antibiotics or having a weakened immune system can increase your risk of developing a Candida infection.
The most common Candida infections, such as vaginal and skin infections, are localized and can be treated with antifungal drugs. An untreated Candida infection carries the risk of leading to a systemic infection in which other organs can become involved.
If you notice symptoms that are consistent with those of a Candida infection, see your doctor in order to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment.
Candida Fungus Skin Infection
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Candida is a strain of fungus that can cause an infection in your skin, among other locations. In normal conditions, your skin may host small amounts of this fungus. Problems arise when it begins to multiply and creates an overgrowth. , according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the majority of infections are caused by a species called Candida albicans.
Types of candida fungus skin infections include:
will have a yeast infection at some point, according to the CDC. notes that 90 percent of all people with AIDS will develop oral thrush or candida overgrowth in the mouth. This rarely occurs in adults with healthy immune systems.
Invasive candidiasis occurs when candida enters the bloodstream. According to the CDC, there are about in the United States each year.
The outlook for candida infection is often very good. Generally, the condition isn’t serious and can be easily treated. However, uncontrolled infections can lead to potentially life-threatening problems — especially in those with weakened immune systems. Quick treatment can help stop the spread of the fungus, while also improving, and potentially saving, your life.
What are the causes and risk factors?
Candida skin infections can occur on almost any area of the body, but they are more commonly found in intertriginous regions. This is where two skin areas touch or rub together. Such areas include the armpits, groin, and skin folds, as well as the area between your fingers and toes. The fungus thrives in warm, moist, and sweaty conditions.
Normally, your skin acts as an effective barrier against infection. However, any cuts or breakdown in the superficial layers of the skin may allow the fungus to cause infection. Candida becomes pathogenic, or capable of causing disease, when conditions are favorable for it to multiply. Hot and humid weather, poor hygiene, or restrictive clothing may produce these conditions.
These aren’t the only risk factors to consider. Candida infections also tend to be more prevalent in:
- people who are overweight
- people with diabetes
- people with an underactive thyroid gland, or hypothyroidism
- people with inflammatory disorders
- people with a weakened immune system
- people working in wet conditions
- pregnant women
Certain medications may also increase the risk for this type of fungal infection. Topical corticosteroid medications are the most problematic, but birth control pills and antibiotics are other possible causes. If you take these types of medications, you should monitor your skin regularly for signs of candida infection.
Recognizing the symptoms of an infection
Symptoms vary depending on body location, but include the following:
- red or purple patches (area with an altered surface)
- white, flaky substance over affected areas
- scaling, or shedding of the skin with flakes
- cracks in the skin
- erythema, which results in areas of redness
- maceration, or the appearance of soft white skin
- creamy satellite pustules at margins of affected areas (pimples filled with pus)
- red and white lesions in your mouth, as seen in oral thrush
Diagnosis of candida infection primarily relies on appearance and skin sampling. Your doctor will take skin scrapings, nail clippings, or plucked hair from the affected area and mount them on a slide for examination. Once a candida infection is diagnosed, the first step is to address the underlying cause. This may include changing your lifestyle to be more clean, losing weight if you are overweight, or managing your diabetes.
It is typically recommended that you make an appointment with your doctor the first time that you experience an infection. This allows the doctor to diagnose it properly and to give you the best treatment options. Candida is often recurring. However, visiting a pharmacist and asking a few questions is typically all that’s needed at subsequent visits.
Treatment for candida skin infection is usually simple. You don’t need to be hospitalized unless you have problems with your immune system or the candida has spread to the bloodstream. Your doctor may prescribe drying agents with antifungal creams, ointments, or lotions that are applied to your skin. Suppositories and oral medications are also available.
You will probably be prescribed over-the-counter drugs, such as ketoconazole or clotrimazole, both of which are topical (you apply on top of the skin) and from a class of antifungal drugs known as azoles. They are available in forms like ointments, tablets, and creams. They don’t have the same serious side effects as other antifungal agents such as nystatin or amphotericin B. Amphotericin B is an intravenous medication only used in the hospital setting.
Different kinds of drugs will be used based on the type of infection and the affected body part. For example:
- Vaginal gels or creams, such as miconazole, are often used for vaginal yeast infections.
- Thrush is often treated with antifungals in the form of lozenges, tablets, or liquid mouthwash that you swallow.
- Athlete’s foot is most often treated with sprays, powders, and ointments.
- Severe infections are most often treated with oral or even intravenous medications.
Most medications will be used once or twice a day.
Some medications, such as miconazole and clotrimazole, can be safely used to treat candida infection in any trimester of pregnancy. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what is safe for you to use.
All medications have potential side effects. Side effects for antifungals most often include:
- itching at the site of application
- redness or mild burning at the site of topical application
- indigestion or upset stomach
- rashes on the skin
Intravenous antifungals are more likely to cause negative side effects, which can include:
In rare cases, antifungals may cause severe allergic reactions or severe skin reactions, including peeling or blistered skin.
Those with liver damage should not use antifungal medicine without a doctor’s oversight. Antifungals can result in liver damage in healthy patients, but it’s more likely to be severe in those who already have liver damage.
Medications that may interact with antifungals include:
- rifampin (also known as rifampicin), an antibiotic
- benzodiazepines, which are used to induce sleep and reduce anxiety
- estrogens and progestogens, which are found in contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy
- phenytoin, which is used to treat epilepsy
Candida infections in children
Children can more prone to candida fungus skin infections when compared to adults. Children are most likely to develop sinus infections, skin rashes (including diaper rash), oral thrush, and earaches from candida overgrowth.
Symptoms in babies and toddlers can include:
- persistent and heavy diaper rash
- skin rashes that resemble eczema
- white or yellow patches on the tongue or inside of the mouth or cheeks
- being colicky for longer than three months
- recurrent ear problems
- symptoms that worsen in damp environments or in damp weather
Symptoms in older children include:
- constantly craving sweets
- learning disabilities
- often being irritable or unhappy
- recurrent ear problems
- symptoms that worsen in damp environments or in damp weather
Treatment will depend on the specific type of candida infection. It may be topical medication for skin infections or antifungal medications, which are sometimes oral.
Treatment can take up to two weeks, though recurrence is fairly common.
In healthy adults, candidiasis is often minor and is easily treated. The infection can be more problematic in older adults and young children, as well as other groups that have weaker immune systems. This can cause a spread of the infection to other parts of the body, especially in cases of oral thrush. The areas it can spread to include the:
Preventive measures as well as early treatment can go a long way in preventing candida growth. The sooner you seek treatment for suspected candidiasis, the better the outcome. Seek emergency care if your rash is accompanied by abdominal pain or a high fever.
- Aaron, D. M. (2015, November). Candidiasis (Mucocutaneous). Retrieved from http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic_disorders/fungal_skin_infections/candidiasis_mucocutaneous.html
- Antifungal medicines – side effects and interactions with other drugs. (2014, August 18). Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Antifungal-drugs/Pages/Side-effects.aspx
- Candidiasis. (2015, June 12). Retrieved from
- Cutaneous candidiasis. (2013, March 11). Retrieved from https://www.swchildrens.org/Pages/health-safety/health-library/library-detail.aspx?docId=%7BB0C5B77A-DCCD-4BA8-9993-C92287CF1C65%7D
- Invasive candidiasis. (2015, June 12). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/invasive/statistics.html
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, August 12). Oral thrush: Definition. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/oral-thrush/basics/definition/con-20022381
- Merenstein, D., Hu, H., Wang, C., Hamilton, P., Blackmon, M., Chen, H., … Li, D. (2013, January). Colonization by Candida Species of the Oral and Vaginal Mucosa in HIV-Infected and Noninfected Women. AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, 29(1), 30-347. Retrieved from /
- Steckelberg, J. M. (2015, August 22). Male yeast infection: How can I tell if I have one? Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/male-yeast-infection/expert-answers/faq-20058464
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