Candidiasis: What Is It?

September 12, 2017
Candidiasis is a condition caused by a fungus called candida. It can present itself in many ways; find out more in the article below.

Candidiasis is an infection produced by a fungus belonging to the Candida species. It may cause different types of infections. They affect the skin, mucous membranes, and deep tissues.

Symptoms are very variable and might be hard to identify. The prognosis is also very variable. It can range from mild infections to life-threatening problems in the case of having a very weak immune system. Because of this, it’s very important to learn how to identify possible cases of candidiasis.

Candida spp

This is a type formed by yeast-like fungus. Within this type three kinds we’re interested in here are:

  • Candida albicans: This is the most aggressive kind and responsible for more than half of symptoms.
  • Candida glabrata
  • C. parapsilosis: Associated with the use of catheters and needles.
  • C. krusei: Associated with taking Fluconazole (an antifungal)
* The spp is used to refer to all species that are part of the kind.
fungus

What are opportunistic pathogens?

Opportunistic pathogens are those that don’t infect a healthy person in normal conditions. Your immune system must be weak for it to spread in an unhealthy way.

The Candida type, just like most fungus and some bacteria, belongs to this group of pathogens. In fact, it is part of the normal flora of the skin and mucous membranes of a large percentage of people. However, when your defenses are unbalanced, candida spreads more than it should, leading to various illnesses.

How does candidiasis develop?

This disease forms when there is damage in your natural barriers. With this, we mean your skin or other membranes that protect you from the outside world. Because of this, people with catheters or on dialysis, as well as drug users can be more at risk.

Damage in the skin or membranes keeps them from fulfilling their role as a barrier, allowing the growth of fungus. So that’s how syringes, piercings, etc., can make a person more at risk of getting this infection. It doesn’t mean that if you have a piercing or have used a syringe you will get it for sure, but it might make you a bit more vulnerable.

Due to alterations in bacterial flora

Taking broad-spectrum antibiotics can often hurt the healthy bacteria in your body. This is true because they “attack” both the good and the bad bacteria, leaving you with fewer defenses against fungi. For example, it’s relatively common to find cases of vaginal candidiasis in young women after taking antibiotics.

States of immunosuppression

Whether it’s from an illness, like in patients with HIV, or from medication, like in transplant patients taking anti-rejection medication. Being immunosuppressed means that your body does not have a normal level of defenses. These conditions cause the same environment like the one we talked about before.

fungus under microscope

Superficial candidiasis

Muguet

This type is characterized by the appearance of white particles covering the tongue and mouth area. When removed, you uncover a reddened, worn-down surface. They can be very painful. This can make swallowing and breathing hard.

They most often appear in people with HIV (up to 90% of cases), being one of the first signs of this disease. However, although most of the cases happen in HIV cases, it has become less and less common over the years.

It also affects people with cancer due to their weakened immune system, and newborns because they are still developing. This makes both of these patients more prone to catching the fungus infection.

In any case, if you identify a white mucous in your mouth, it’s best to check it out with a doctor to make sure it’s not candida or something similar. Don’t try to ignore the problem and wait for it to go away, as it might keep spreading and become worse.

Vaginitis and vulvovaginitis Candida

This kind is also relatively common. Clinically characterized by:

  • Very strong burning feeling in the vulva and vagina, especially when urinating.
  • Severe reddening in the genital area.
  • White spots on the reddened mucous membranes.
  • Whiteish, thick vaginal secretion, with lumps. Often described as looking like “cottage cheese.”
vaginal candidiasis

When dealing with this type of candidiasis, it’s very important to go to your ob/gyn, as some of the symptoms are similar to other illnesses. However, the treatment for fungi and infections is very different, so an accurate diagnosis is key.

Balanitis Candida

This type is less common than vaginitis. It tends to appear along with diabetes, in uncircumcised individuals or those with a history of candidiasis in a sexual partner.

Red, raw-looking lesions and superficial pustules appear on the glans and foreskin. What is more, they are usually painful. They may come along with a burning sensation that gets worse during urination.

It’s key to mention that sexual contact is one of the easiest ways to spread the infection since membranes are more exposed in those areas. Because of this, if you suspect you might be infected, please contact your doctor.

Skin candidiasis

This kind generally forms in skin folds and areas where you tend to wear tight clothing. In both cases, your body creates a warm, moist environment.

This environment creates a red rash with bad itching. It normally happens under the breasts, on one’s bosom, in the genital area, as well as other areas. In addition, sometimes it infects skin follicles and looks like pimples.

It’s relatively common for nursing infants with diaper rash to be infected with Candida, making symptoms worse. In this case, make sure to see your doctor immediately, in order to find an effective treatment for the baby.

APECED

A rare genetic disease from a mutation in the AIRE gene. The illness starts in one’s childhood with repeated episodes of candidiasis on the nails and mouth with no apparent cause.

Then, later on, autoimmune dysfunctions appear in different glands. This case is very rare, yet it connects with candida and how it affects a weak body.

Deep candidiasis

Esophageal Candida

Commonly found in people with weak immune systems. It’s very common in people with HIV or lymphoma. Also, it might happen to people who take corticoids as medicine for other conditions. It’s symptoms include:

  • A burning feeling underneath the sternum.
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Heartburn

Also, whiteish mucus appears along your throat’s membranes. Please keep in mind that these symptoms can also be unrelated to candidiasis, which is why it’s important to see your doctor for advice. Never try to assume you know exactly what is going on.

You might also like: 4 Antibiotic Treatments for a Throat Infection

Invasive candidiasis

Here, the fungus moves to the bloodstream, being able to affect any organ of the body. This also appears in patients with very severely suppressed immune systems. For instance, people with severe HIV or leukemia might be more prone to it.

It is a very serious symptom, most of the time with a poor prognosis. Due to the weakness of the patient, the fungus spreads very quickly and can become fatal. Therefore, it’s key to be very alert to the early symptoms. Also, be extra careful with these patients and always look for a doctor’s opinion.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis comes from obtaining and analyzing cultures. This is the easiest way in which the doctor will be able to know if this fungus is attacking you, or if it’s something else.

A doctor obtains it with a swab of the affected area and then gets it cultured. After that, the doctor can look at it under a microscope and see which virus, infection, or fungus is spreading. Also, keep in mind that, depending on the affected area, different doctors might be able to diagnose it.

Read also: 15 Remedies to Cure Skin Fungus

Prevention and treatment

Further, good personal hygiene is important for prevention. After showering, you should then dry the folds of your skin well. Also,  you should take proper care of the genital region For pregnant women, it’s also a good idea to include bioactive yoghurt into your diet to maintain proper vaginal acidity.

Also, try to be extra clean in those areas of your body that are usually humid. This means always brushing your teeth with a clean brush, and changing that brush often. Don’t get lazy just because you forget to buy new ones!

On the other hand, in the case of your vaginal area, this includes showering daily and changing your underwear after working out or having sex. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Finally, make sure to follow any tips that your doctor might give you, such as putting on your socks before your panties (to avoid spreading fungus from one side to the other).

feminine health

Treatment depends on the type of issue. A typical treatment is clotrimazole. However, never take any medication without your doctor’s approval. The only way you will know if you have candida for sure is if you get tested.

Finally, don’t panic after reading this article. Most cases of candidiasis are easy to treat, and a lot of people get it at least once in their life. Since candida is a part of our body, it will always be waiting for a chance to spread. The only thing we can do is try to stop that from happening and dealing with it if it does.