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Candidiasis: What is it and do I have it?

Candidiasis - commonly called yeast infection or thrush - is a fungal infection of more than 20 species, the most common being Candida albicans. Yeast organisms are always in our systems, but are usually prevented from multiplying uncontrollably by naturally occurring microorganisms.

Fungi live on all surfaces of our bodies. Under certain conditions, they cause infections, particularly in warm and moist areas. Examples are vaginal yeast infections, thrush, skin and diaper rash, and nailbed infections.

Did you know?

  • Adults also can have yeast infections around dentures, under the breast and lower abdomen, and beneath other skin folds. Most of these candidal infections are superficial and clear up easily with treatment.
  • Rarely the yeast infection may spread throughout the body, but even common mouth and vaginal yeast infections can cause critical illness and can be more resistant to normal treatment.
  • Yeast infections that return may be a sign of more serious diseases such as diabetes, leukemia, or HIV/AIDS
  • Fungi can reside in the gut, likely from the birth canal, but they are not always found in the GI tract.
  • Less than 26% of individuals will have yeast in their mouths and 18% of the time this is Candida.
  • Candida is found in 40% of stool samples. This number can increase after taking antibiotics, and possibly due to diet.
  • 12% of women will have Candida in the vagina. This is more common in pregnancy and in those on the birth control pill and using IUD's. The skin is not usually a host to Candida except it is sometimes seen in the skin folds, particularly in the young and old.

Why do I keep getting Candida infections?

If you are sick, elderly, or very young, you are more prone to getting infection. Food and debris in the mouth encourage Candida, as seen in Sjögren's disease, which reduces saliva flow.

If you have the following you are at risk for Candida:

  • psoriasis and/or eczema
  • iron deficiency
  • using oral, topical or inhaled steroids
  • Diabetes and Cushing's disease
  • immunosuppressed with T-cell function depression such as HIV/AIDS
  • if you have any number of endocrine (relating to glands that secrete hormones internally directly into the lymph or bloodstream) conditions including Addison's disease, hypothyroidism and hypoparathyroidism
  • There is also a condition called Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis that allows growth of Candida.