Thrush Infection Candida

Candida is a general term for a genus of yeast. The most common form is Candida albicans, also called monilia. This fungus is naturally occurring on people’s skin and in mucous membranes. It normally does not pose any problems, as it is kept in check by normal body conditions. However, when conditions change in a human body, Candida can grow uncontrollably, resulting in a condition commonly known as candidiasis, or thrush.

Certain body areas are more prone to yeast infections than others. These include:

  • the folds of the skin
  • the genitals (both male and female)
  • the mouth.

Types of Candida Infections

Candida can affect the body in many different ways, including the following:

  • Cutaneous candidiasis affects the skin and is often found in areas where there are skin folds, as in diaper rash.
  • Esophagitis infection usually only occurs in those with immunodeficiency problems or those undergoing chemotherapy treatments and can be caused by a yeast infection of the esophagus, among other causes.
  • Systemic candidiasis refers to a serious yeast infection that has seeped into the bloodstream and could infect organs. This life-threatening condition is rare and usually only occurs in those with severely weakened immune systems.
  • Thrush is the name given to oral yeast infections, which can appear as a fuzzy white coating on the tongue, inside of the cheeks and throat.
  • Vaginal yeast infections are estimated to affect three out of four women at least once in their lifetimes. Yeast infections cause an itching sensation and white or yellowish vaginal discharge.

Causes of Yeast Infections

Though yeast infections can sometimes occur without warning or apparent cause, changes in the body that allow the yeast to grow in an unregulated manner often are the source of yeast infections. For example, an autoimmune disorder that impairs the body’s natural defense mechanisms, such as AIDS or leukemia, can contribute to yeast infections.

While yeast infections in a healthy individual are usually easily remedied, they can be life-threatening for those with serious immune system disorders. On rare occasions, Candida albicans can enter the bloodstream and begin to infect organs and body systems.

In addition to people with compromised immune systems, the following are at a higher risk for developing some form of yeast infection:

  • People who have recently undergone a course of antibiotics should be aware that antibiotics can precipitate a yeast infection, since the suppression of bacteria in the body can lead to an outgrowth of Candida.
  • Those with diabetes are at higher risk for yeast infections, due to elevated blood glucose levels. Those with diabetes must therefore be on the lookout for any appearance of a yeast infection.
  • Women who use douches or feminine hygiene sprays or products can inadvertently upset the balance of flora in their genital tracts, leading to the proliferation of Candida and a subsequent vaginal yeast infection.

Treatment of Yeast Infections

Yeast infections are generally treated topically with over-the-counter remedies. Vaginal yeast infections can be handled with products like Vagisil® or Monistat®, for example. For thrush, nystatin can be gargled or taken in lozenge form.

If you are dealing with a yeast infection for the first time or have any history of a suppressed immune system, be sure to discuss your treatment options with your physician. You may need guidance on both the best course of action and the length of time you should be treated, as people often only treat yeast infections until the basic symptoms have been alleviated but before the problem is truly solved.

Yeast Infections: Preventative Tips

The easiest method of keeping Candida in check is taking good care of yourself, both on the inside and out. A balanced diet is extremely helpful in maintaining a body environment that can fight yeast overgrowth with normal defense systems.

Here are some tips to help prevent yeast infections:

  • Keep shower shoes on in communal areas like dorm showers or gym showers and saunas.
  • To minimize the growth of yeast on the skin, practice good hygiene habits and make sure you dry thoroughly in between toes and skin folds after bathing.
  • Women, especially those who have had a vaginal yeast infection in the past, should be cautious when using new personal hygiene products, lubricants, birth control foams or other products that might disrupt natural body chemistry.

Resources

Aetna InteliHealth (2007). Candidiasis. Retrieved August 27, 2007, from the intelihealth.com Web site: http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW000/9339/31092.html.

HealthScout (2007). Candida albicans. Retrieved August 27, 2007, from the HealthScout Web site: http://www.healthscout.com/ency/68/312/main.html.

Hidalgo, Jose A. (2006). Candidiasis. Retrieved August 27, 2007, from the emedicine.com Web site: http://www.emedicine.com/med/topic264.htm.

Medline Plus (2007). Yeast infections. Retrieved August 27, 2007, from the Medline Plus Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/yeastinfections.html.