Candida is a type of yeast. Small amounts of this yeast live harmlessly on and inside the body. However, certain factors can cause the yeast to multiply out of control, resulting in a Candida infection.
This article describes what Candida is and outlines the different types of Candida infection, or overgrowth, along with their associated symptoms.
Then, we explore the many treatment options.
Candida is a type of yeast that lives on and inside the human body. Small amounts typically exist on the skin, and inside the mouth, vagina, and gut.
Small amounts of Candida are harmless and cause no symptoms. However, certain factors can cause this fungus to multiply out of control, resulting in a Candida infection, which is called “candidiasis.”
Under normal conditions, Candida is harmless. The bacteria living on and in the body combined with the efforts of the immune system help keep Candida populations under control.
However, a person may develop candidiasis if their bacteria are suppressed or their immune system is weakened. Some common causes of candidiasis include:
Candidiasis does not typically pass from person to person, though this is possible. Vaginal candidiasis may pass to a partner during sex, for example.
Also, if a Candida infection enters the bloodstream, it can spread to various other parts of the body, such as the eyes, kidneys, and other organs.
Symptoms of candidiasis vary based on the location of the infection. Below, learn more about the possible locations of a Candida infection and the associated symptoms.
Candidiasis of the mouth or throat
- white patches on the:
- inner cheeks
- a cottony feeling in the mouth
- redness or inflammation
- slight bleeding
- a loss of taste
- pain or soreness in the mouth or throat
- pain when swallowing
Candidiasis of the skin
“Cutaneous candidiasis” is the medical term for this skin infection. Because Candida thrives in warm, moist environments, cutaneous candidiasis often develops in the folds of the skin.
Cutaneous candidiasis can cause the following symptoms:
- inflamed skin that may crack or peel, in people with darker skin
- red, circular patches surrounded by red pustules, in people with lighter skin
- areas of itchy skin
- hair loss, if the infection occurs on the scalp
Candidiasis of the nails
An overgrowth of Candida around the nail beds can cause candidiasis of the nails. Symptoms may include:
- pain, redness, and swelling around the nail
- white or yellow nail discoloration
- cracked nails
- seperation of the nail from the nail bed
Candidiasis of the vagina
A Candida infection on or inside the vagina is called a vaginal yeast infection or “vaginal candidiasis.” These infections are common.
Some possible symptoms of vaginal candidiasis include:
- white, clumpy vaginal discharge
- vaginal itching or soreness
- pain during sexual intercourse
- pain or discomfort when urinating
Candidiasis of the penis
A Candida infection on the penis is called “penile candidiasis.” The condition is less common than vaginal candidiasis. A person may develop penile candidiasis after sexual intercourse with someone who has vaginal candidiasis.
Penile candidiasis can cause painful swelling at the tip of the penis. Other possible symptoms include:
- irritation and burning around the head of the penis and under the foreskin
- difficulty pulling back the foreskin
- a thick, white substance building up around the foreskin
- shiny white or red patches on the penis
- an unpleasant odor
Candidiasis of the blood
“Candidemia” is the medical term for a Candida infection of the bloodstream.
The symptoms vary, according to the location of the infection in the body. However, it can cause generalized symptoms, such as a fever and chills.
The condition may also cause septic shock, with the following symptoms:
When diagnosing candidiasis, a doctor typically asks about the person’s symptoms and reviews their medical history.
The doctor may be able to diagnose candidiasis on the skin based on a visual examination alone.
Or, a doctor may take a scraping from the area and examine the cells under a microscope. They may prefer to do this for suspected candidiasis of the skin, mouth, or nails.
If the doctor suspects that the yeast has spread to the blood, they may order lab work to check for antibodies that the immune system produces in response to a Candida infection.
Doctors typically recommend over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medications to treat candidiasis. These medications work by either killing the fungus or preventing it from growing.
The best type of antifungal medication depends on the location of the infection. A person might use antifungal:
- creams, gels, or ointments
- capsules, tablets, or liquids
The doctor may also recommend stopping any medications that may cause an overgrowth of Candida. This might involve stopping the use of antibiotics or corticosteroids. However, do not do this unless the doctor recommends it.
A person should contact a doctor if they experience any of the following:
- a persistent or recurrent Candida infection
- a skin rash that does not go away with topical antifungal treatment
- more than two episodes of vaginal or penile candidiasis in 6 months
- symptoms of a Candida infection in the blood during or following any other type of Candida infection
Also, anyone with a weakened immune system who develops this type of infection should contact a doctor, who may prescribe medications to reduce the risk of complications.
It is not always possible to prevent candidiasis. To reduce the risk, try:
- keeping the skin clean and dry
- only using antibiotics when a doctor has prescribed them
- maintaining a healthful diet
- keeping blood sugar levels under control, for people with diabetes
Candida is a type of yeast that normally lives on or inside various parts of the body.
Ordinarily, bacteria and the immune system work together to keep Candida numbers under control — but certain factors can cause the yeast to multiply uncontrollably, resulting in a Candida infection, which is called candidiasis.
Among the factors that can increase the risk of candidiasis include the overuse of antibiotics and certain health issues and treatments that weaken the immune system.
The symptoms of candidiasis depend on the location of the infection. A person may be able to treat the infection at home, but if Candida infections are persistent or recurrent, contact a doctor.