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Candidiasis

Candidiasis or thrush is an infection caused by the fungus Candida albicans. The fungus which is normally found in the human body can overgrow and cause the disease when the immune system is compromised or the skin or mucosal barriers are disrupted. The disease can be a localized infection of the skin or mucosa, or a potentially lethal systemic disease. It can affect oral cavity, pharynx, genitalia, gastrointestinal tract, nails, etc. It may enter into the bloodstream and cause systemic candida infection (candidemia).

Some of the predisposing factors are use of antibiotics and oral contraceptives, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, stress, cancer therapy, steroids and pregnancy. Superficial infections of skin and mucosa cause redness and discomfort. Oral candidiasis is the most common opportunistic infection occurring in the mouth. It may cause sore throat and difficulty in swallowing. Use of detergents or douches, hormonal disturbances, taking antibiotics or immunosuppressive drugs, etc. can cause overgrowth of Candida and cause vulvo-vaginal candidiasis. It causes itching, soreness, and thick, curdy-white discharge.

The infection is diagnosed by examining the specimen from affected area under microscope or by culture test. Treatment is through anti-fungal medication like fluconazole or clotrimazole in the form of tablets, gels or creams. A vaginal device containing probiotic bacteria for the treatment of vaginal thrush is being developed by scientists.

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Causes

A vaginal yeast infection is caused by the fungus candida, which is a microorganism normally present inside the vagina along with bacteria. The vagina naturally contains a balanced mix of yeast and bacteria.

The Lactobacillus bacteria produces an acid that discourages the overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. But disruption of the healthy balance of yeast and bacteria can result in an overgrowth of yeast. Too much yeast in the vagina can lead to vaginal itching, burning, and other classic signs and symptoms of a yeast infection.

Risk Factors

Candidiasis is a fungal infection can affect primarily the genitals. It is a fact that genital infections are more common in women than men, but when it does occur in males, Candidiasis affects the head of the penis and the foreskin. Men can get affected by having unprotected sex with a yeast-infected woman, prolonged use of antibiotics, diabetes and using condoms with nonoxynol-9 added to the lubricant. Besides the genital areas, Candidiasis of the skin is most likely to occur on areas where the skin is folded that includes areas in the armpits, throat, between the fingers and under the breasts.

Fungal infection can be passed on quite easily from one person to another, but this does not mean that the fungus will inevitably infect the other person. Some people are more susceptible to fungal infections than others and in these people the presence of fungi on the body will necessarily result in fungal infections.

Symptoms

Yeast infections comprises of a common set of symptoms. Leaving the yeast infection untreated results in a direct impact on how severe the symptoms are. Some of the frequent symptoms include -


  • Itching

  • Burning

  • Large or small amounts of vaginal discharge with a cottage cheese appearance

  • Pain during sex

  • Soreness and rashes in and around the genital areas

Diagnosis

The diagnosis to detect yeast infection is quite simple. A suspected patient is asked to give his/her medical history for gathering information about any past vaginal infections or sexually transmitted infections.

Following this, the external genitals are visually examined through an instrument (speculum) for signs of infection. Sample of the vaginal discharge is collected for examination under a microscope or to perform a vaginal culture test. As per the test results, an effective form of treatment is prescribed.

Treatment

Treatment for yeast infection differs depending upon its severity and complications. For simple yeast infections, a few-day regimen of an antifungal cream, ointment or tablets are recommended.

Meanwhile, for complicated infections like severe redness, swelling, sores and tears in vaginal tissue or the patient has more than four yeast infections in a year, an aggressive course of treatment is required. The treatment would include long-course vaginal therapy, multi-dose oral medication and a maintenance plan.

Prevention

Well women can’t always avoid a yeast infection; however, they can help lower the risk of getting one by simply including few habits in their daily regime.


  • One must wash their vaginal area just with water and unscented soap instead of douching the vagina or using bubble baths, scented soaps etc.

  • Wearing loose clothes are the best way to prevent the vaginal area from being constantly warm, moist, and airless.

  • Beware of prolonged use of antibiotics as they may kill the normal harmless bacteria in the vagina which helps to defend against Candidiasis fungi.

  • Also, friction during sex may cause minor damage to the vagina which again is likely to make it infected.  So, it should be made sure that the vagina is well lubricated when having sex.

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