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Candidiasis overview

Published: July 16, 2009. Updated: August 09, 2009

Candidiasis, commonly called yeast infection or thrush, is a fungal infection of any of the Candida species, of which Candida albicans is probably the most common. Yeast organisms are always present in all people, but are usually prevented from "overgrowth" (uncontrolled multiplication resulting in symptoms) by naturally occurring microorganisms.

In immunocompetent people, candidiasis can usually only be found in exposed and moist parts of the body, such as the oral cavity (oral thrush), the vagina (vaginal candidiasis or thrush), or folds of skin in the diaper area (diaper rash). Oral thrush presents as a grayish yellow membrane over the tongue and various parts of the oral cavity.

Candidiasis is the most common cause of vaginal irritation or vaginitis. At least three quarters of all women will experience candidiasis at some point in their lives. The Candida albicans organism is found in the vaginas of almost all women and normally causes no problems. However, when it gets out of balance with the other "normal flora", an overgrowth and symptoms can result. Pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives and some antibiotics, and diabetes mellitus increase the risk of infection.

The most common symptoms are itching and irritation of the vagina and/or vulva. A whitish or whitish-gray discharge may be present, sometimes resembling cottage cheese, and may have a "yeasty" smell like beer or baking bread.

In immunocompromised patients, the candida infection can become systemic, causing much more serious disease.

Treatment

Candidiasis should be treated with antifungal medication. If indicated, an underlying reason should be looked for. As an example, oral candidiasis is often linked to the use of inhaled steroids in asthma medication. Patients on long term inhaled steroids should rinse their mouth after each dose of steroids. Babies with diaper rash should have their diaper areas kept clean, dry, and exposed to air as much as possible.

Following the health tips at vulvovaginal health can help prevent vaginal candidiasis.

Local treatment may include vaginal suppositories or medicated douches.


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