Candidiasis is the most common fungal infection. It is characterized by a number of clinical symptoms of varying severity. The main causing agent is yeast Candida albicans. Candida organisms are ubiquitous. In human body, skin, oral mucosa, intestine or vagina are normally populated by yeast, living under the control of our immune system in balance with other microorganisms. If for some reason the balance is disrupted, Candida overgrows the other microorganisms, causing various diseases – in the oral cavity thrush, in the genital area vaginal candidiasis, or fungal infections of the skin. In weakened people Candida can cause life-threatening systemic inflammation.
Symptoms of Candidiasis
Candidiasis affects people with serious immune disorders such as AIDS or cancer, as well as normal population, women especially. Up to 75% of women experience vaginal candidiasis at least once in their lifetime. It is an unpleasant condition characterized by thick, white, curd-like discharge and itching in the area of external genitalia. Other symptoms include vaginal burning, discomfort during sexual intercourse or pain during urination. In men, candidiasis manifests as red spots on the glans and penis, pain in the area, and accumulation of whitish material under the foreskin. Dry and peeling skin in affected area often appears. Apart from the genital system, candidiasis can affect also other parts of human body. The skin candidiasis manifests as small red itching spots, mostly in the corners of the mouth, in armpits, behind the ears or in the groin. Nails are also often attacked by yeast infection, especially on the feet. The nails are thickened, deformed, yellowish to white in colour, and easy to crumble and break. Candidiasis in the mouth looks like flowing white coatings on reddened mucosa.
Diagnosis of Candidiasis
In candidiasis diagnosis, blood tests, samples of the skin, examination of secretions, urine and stool are used. Culture test is also performed, even though growing Candida in laboratory needs longer time. On the other hand, culture test is the only way how to determine sensitivity of Candida to antifungal drugs.
Transmission and Treatment of Candidiasis
If you have any symptoms of candidiasis, visit a dermatovenerologist as soon as possible. If genital tract is affected, women should contact their gynecologist; men search for urology dermatovenereology specialist. Topical or systemic antifungal drugs are commonly used for the treatment of candidiasis. Topical antifungal medicaments are applied in the form of vaginal tablets, suppositories or skin creams. Mainly nystatin, natamycin and amphotericin B are used. Most women respond quickly to the treatment, the symptoms disappear usually in few days. Among systemic antifungal drugs fluconazole is used; it is administered usually in one dose orally in the form of a capsule. Duration of the therapy must always be individually set by your doctor. In the course of treatment, diet modification with restriction of sweet food should be followed because sugar promotes the growth of Candidas. It is also advisable to follow sexual abstinence to prevent potential transmission of the infection to the partner. Many women with vaginal candidiasis suffer from repeated infections, even after successful treatment. In some cases it is caused by re-infection from the sexual partner who became infected during sexual intercourse in the time when the woman was infected. Therefore, as in other sexually transmitted diseases, it is also important to treat all sexual partners simultaneously to prevent re-infection.
Risk Factors for Candidiasis
The risk factors that promote the development of candidiasis include antibiotic use, diabetes mellitus, pregnancy, some types of hormonal contraception or hormone replacement therapy, alternative therapy, or food rich in sugar and stress. Sometimes also bad hygiene habits play a role, especially excessive washing of intimate parts and usage of perfumed soaps. Also warm and moist environment contributes to the overgrowth of yeast, so that wearing tight pants can worsen the situation. Therefore, in prevention of candidiasis women should focus on the removal of risk factors, such as inappropriate diet, stress, hygiene, and thereby actively contribute to the protection of their health. If candidiasis repeatedly recurs even after removal of the risk factors, other possible cause should be looked for – candidiasis can be a symptom of some other serious diseases, such as diabetes or cancer.