Candida is a strain of yeast that is commonly present in the human body. We’ll explore the causes of candida infections (candidiasis) and different types of candida infections. You can more readily prevent or treat an infection if you know its risk factors and symptoms.
Yeast can be thought of as microscopic fungi. Candida, a strain of yeast, is commonly present in the human body. Candida can be considered parasitic, but it doesn’t usually cause harm if the amount of candida present is in balance with other microorganisms in your body. What can lead to candidiasis (an infection that occurs when the yeast grows out of control)?
What causes candidasis?
Several factors increase the risk of yeast infection. The root cause of candidiasis (of any type) is the overgrowth of the yeast candida. Candida is the most common strain of yeast leading to yeast infection, though there are other strains. Yeast infection risk factors include having a weakened immune system, using wide-spectrum antibiotics, and diabetes.
Signs of candida
How can you recognize a candida infection? Signs differ depending on the type of candidiasis. Candidiasis can occur in your mouth, on your skin, in your genitals, and in your bloodstream. Redness or irritation at the site of infection is a common symptom. The type of candidiasis is a key indicator of the signs and symptoms you may experience.
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Types of candida
Candidiasis comes in several forms, dependent upon where in the body the overgrowth of yeast occurs. It can be challenging to diagnose a yeast infection because other infections or illnesses have similar symptoms. If you aren’t positive it’s a yeast infection, we suggest speaking with your primary care provider for a diagnosis. It is important to be properly diagnosed so you may be started on the appropriate medication. If not properly treated there is a possibility the infection may return. Antifungal medications are commonly used in the treatment of candidiasis.
When yeast becomes overgrown in your mouth or throat, the infection is known as thrush. This type of candidiasis is most common in newborns, the elderly, and any other person with a weakened immune system. Risk factors include some cancer treatments, wide-spectrum antibiotics, dentures, and diabetes. Possible symptoms include:
Redness or soreness in the mouth and throat
Cracking in the corners of your mouth
Pain when you swallow (if the yeast has overgrown in your throat)
White or yellow patches within your mouth (on your tongue, lips, gums, the roof of the mouth, or inner cheeks)
Genital yeast infection
For women, a genital yeast infection is likely to occur at least once in a lifetime. Risk factors include pregnancy (and other factors that change hormone levels), diabetes, or a weakened immune system. You might have a genital yeast infection if:
Your discharge is white and chunky (a texture likened to cottage cheese)
Your vagina and vulva are itchy and irritated
There’s redness or soreness
You experience a burning sensation when you have sex or pee
If your baby is in a wet or soiled diaper for too long, it might get a diaper rash. The irritation from this condition increases the risk of a yeast infection. Symptoms of this form of candidiasis include a raised red border around diaper rash sores.
Invasive candidiasis is the most serious, possibly life-threatening, type of candida infection. It can occur when yeast enters the bloodstream, usually through the use of medical devices. Invasive candidiasis can be challenging to diagnose because the most visible symptoms include fever and chills.
Dealing with candida
There’s no sure way to avoid infection entirely, but there are ways to reduce some of the risk factors. By preparing yourself, you can minimize the impact infection has on your life.
You can lower your chances of getting an infection by living as healthfully as possible. Take control of factors such as diet, activity, and sleep. For yeast infections (particularly genital yeast infections), you can also:
Change out of wet clothing promptly
Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing
Avoid scented hygiene products
Only take antibiotics if there isn’t an alternative
How to treat candida
Recommended treatments for candidiasis include antibiotics and antifungal medications. You can find some of these treatments over-the-counter at pharmacies and grocery stores. Options include medications that are taken orally or medications for topical use only. Antifungal medications can be tablets, creams, or suppositories. You have options when it comes to the form of medication. Always read instructions carefully and complete the entire medication cycle, even if symptoms seem to clear up early. If you’re still experiencing symptoms after treatment, we suggest speaking with your primary care provider to find out what’s going on. You may be experiencing a more severe case of candidiasis, or it could be a different type of infection.
If you think you have some sort of candidiasis, we suggest contacting your primary care provider for a diagnosis.
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