Candidiasis is an infection caused by a group of microscopic yeast or fungi. There are around twenty species of candida, out of which Candida Albicans is the most common one. This yeast exists on the skin surface especially on areas like underarms, mouth, rectum, and vagina where the skin is generally warm and moist. It is considered to be harmless as usually our skin effectively blocks the yeast from penetrating the skin but any breakdown or cuts in the skin may allow this organism to penetrate. It then becomes an infectious agent leading to candidiasis.
Most of the women have yeasts in the vaginal area but it’s only when the environment in the vagina changes that the outgrowth of yeast starts and the area gets infected with candidiasis. It is one major reason for vaginal inflammation, itching, and discharge. Although steroids and antibiotics contribute a lot to the overgrowth of the yeast, pregnancy, birth control pills and diabetes can also contribute to the infection. Patients suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other severe diseases are at a higher risk as they have a weakened immune system as they are on steroids and the medical treatments they are undergoing.
Itching, burning, redness and discomfort are the main symptoms of candidiasis. These symptoms can be easily treated and do not cause complications in many of the cases. Symptoms of vaginal candidiasis include white discharge that irritates the vagina and a burning sensation in and around the vagina. Blood in the vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, increased urination and fever are some of the signs of a severe infection, which needs immediate medical aid. If the infection enters the bloodstream, one may get sick with or without fever. Once the infection reaches the brain, one may have acute changes in behaviour and mental functions.
Candidiasis can be diagnosed by examining tissue specimens or samples of blood or other body fluid. An X-ray of chest may also be carried out to check whether the lungs have got any infection or not. Oral or intravenous anti-fungal drugs may be given to the patient to treat the infection. A combination of creams and low-strength corticosteroids may reduce the burning and itching. Most of the treatments last for about 2-4 days to 2 weeks, provided the medicines are taken as prescribed, otherwise the infection may reoccur.
Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential to prevent this infection in the mouth or throat. Sugar increases the growth of yeast in the body, therefore, controlling the consumption of sugar may also control the growth of yeast. Regular consumption of milk and yogurt may prevent candidiasis, as they contain “friendly” bacteria. These bacteria help the body fight against harmful bacteria and fungus, and prevent such infections. Wearing loose clothes help prevent vaginal candidiasis, as such clothes allow body parts to stay properly ventilated and dried out.