Candidiasis is the medical term for an infection that is caused by particular family of yeasts called candida. More than twenty different species of candida are in existence and the most common is called Candida albicans. Usually these yeasts live on and in our body and do not cause any problems. Sometimes, however, these fungi multiply more rapidly than usual and this can lead to an infection. The fungi thrive, particularly, in areas that are moist and warm such as the armpits.


These infections can affect many parts of the body including the mouth and the vagina. They can also lead to nappy rash, skin rash and infections of the nail bed.

Oral yeast infections become more common in adults as they get older. It is also possible for the gums around dentures to become infected. These infections are usually easy to get rid of with the correct medication.

A yeast infection can, sometimes, spread through the whole body and can be fatal, though this is rare. A yeast infection may be symptomatic of a more serious underlying health condition.


The causes of yeast infections

The most common cause of vaginal candida yeast infections (thrush) is steroid or antibiotic use. Menstruation, pregnancy, sperm, contraceptive pills and diabetes can also be a contributing factor. It is more common for a woman to have a yeast infection after she has gone through the menopause.


A weakened immune system can also cause candida to overgrow. HIV and AIDS and treatments for cancer can all cause the immune system to weaken and allow candida infections to flourish.


Yeast infection symptoms

The symptoms of a yeast infection caused by candida depend on where the infection is located in the body.


Vaginal yeast infections are usually accompanied by a thick, white discharge that looks like cottage cheese. This can lead to the skin around the vagina and the vulva become red, itchy and irritated. The woman may also experience pain whilst having sexual intercourse or when she is urinating.


Oral thrush

A candida infection in the mouth is also known as oral thrush. White patches form on the tongue and, although they are easy to wipe away, they may expose red, sore tissue underneath. Wiping away the white surface layer may also cause the tissue underneath to bleed. This can make it difficult and painful to eat. It is important for someone suffering with oral thrush to drink plenty of water so that they do not become dehydrated.


Candida infections of the skin

Candida lives on the human skin and usually does not cause any problems. Sometimes, however, the outer layer of the skin breaks down and causes the candida to over produce, which causes an infection. This is usually the result of conditions that are warm and moist.

A skin infection caused by Candida usually looks like a red, flat rash. This rash is usually itchy and painful.


Over the counter remedies

 Vaginal thrush

  • Over the counter remedies for Candida yeast infections are normally extremely effective. Women with vaginal thrush are able to treat themselves with over the counter oral medication and with pessaries that are inserted into the vagina. Neither of these requires a prescription.


Oral thrush

  • If you are suffering with oral thrush then you will be able to buy an antifungal mouthwash from the pharmacy. You should also make sure that you have good oral hygiene.
  • Children’s dummies should be full sterilized each time they are used.
  • Mothers who are breastfeeding should be checked for any signs of candida infection on their breasts.
  • Dentures should be thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis and the person wearing them should always maintain excellent oral hygiene.


Nappy rash and skin infections

  • It is important to keep the affected area clean and dry.
  • Changing a baby’s nappy often and using a barrier cream will help speed up recovery.


Weakened immune systems

If you have a weakened immune system as the result of an illness such as HIV/ AIDS or you are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, your doctor may need to prescribe you oral antibiotics to deal with the infection. If the infection is more severe and your body is struggling to fight it off then it may be necessary for you to be treated with antibiotics in a hospital environment.

Candidal infections should, with the appropriate treatment, clear up and not cause any further problems. Vaginal thrush, oral yeast infections and nappy rash normally go away after a few weeks with the correct treatment.


For more info, check out WebMD's page on candidiasis.