What is Candidiasis?
Candidiasis is an infection caused by a fungus called Candida; most commonly the candida albicans variety. Candida is a parasitic fungus that resembles yeast. Candida Albicans can normally be found in the mouth, intestinal tract and vagina. Although common and harmless in most healthy people, this fungus can spread to other parts of the body. In the most severe cases, it can affect the blood, the membrane lining of the heart, and the membrane lining of the brain. The infection begins to spread when the fungus starts multiplying. Health conditions that may cause candida to multiply include someone undergoing chemotherapy, someone with a weakened immune system, pregnancy, diabetes, and someone taking broad spectrum antibiotics. In most cases, treatment is rarely needed, but it some of the more severe infections the following treatments may be advised.
- Stop taking broad spectrum antibiotics
- Stop using corticosteroid and immune suppressant drugs
- Avoid drugs that encourage fungus growth
- Practice better hygiene
- Use antifungal drugs
- Use immune system stimulating drugs
Candidiasis Disorder Subdivisions
Candidiasis has many subdivisions, depending of the area of infection. These subdivisions include, cutaneous candidiasis, vulvovaginitis, penis candidiasis, oral candidiasis, candida paronicnia, chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis, and systemic candidiasis.
- Cutaneous Candidiasis: also known as candidiasis of the skin. Appears as red itchy patches usually in the folds of the skin.
- Vulvovaginitis: also known as vaginitis caused by candida. Appears as a thick white or yellow vaginal discharge with itchiness and redness of the female genitalia. Most common in pregnant women with diabetes.
- Penis Candidiasis: usually appears on the tip of the penis as a red itchy patch. Most commonly found in men with diabetes and men whose sexual partner has vulvovaginitis.
- Oral Candidiasis: also known as thrush. Usually appears as creamy white patches or sores on the tongue or mucous membranes of the mouth. The corners of the mouth can also become red, eroded, and cracked.
- Candidal Paronichia: also known as a candida infection around the nails. Begins as a painful swelling then later forms pus. If this infection occurs under the nail it may cause the loss of a finger or toenail.
- Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis: a rare and severe form of candidiasis, characterized by the chronic infection of the skin, nails, scalp, and mucous membrane. Appears as red, pustular, crusted lesions, usually on the nose and forehead. It will usually develop during infancy.
- Systemic Candidiasis: most serious of candidiasis infections. It is usually caused by an immune deficiency and can affect many parts of the body. Appears as an inflammation of the membrane lining of the heart, skull, or bones.
In our treatment room we are most likely to come across a client with cutaneous candidiasis. Cutaneous Candidiasis causes a red, itchy, rash to form on the skin. It most commonly appears in the folds of the skin such as the armpits, groin, between the fingers, under the breasts, on the edge of the nails, or the corner of the mouth. However, cutaneous candidiasis can spread and appear on other parts of the skin. This infection is commonly mistaken for ringworm, hives, herpes, eczema, psoriasis, and some dermatitis’s. Conditions that may cause cutaneous candidiasis include warm weather, tight clothing, poor hygiene, obesity, the use of antibiotics, the use of corticosteroids, a weakened immune system, pregnancy, and wet skin. Cutaneous Candidiasis can be diagnosed by a physician visually or through a skin culture. The infection is usually not contagious unless a person with a weakened immune system touches the area of infection of someone else; such as through sexual intercourse. A physician may prescribe an antifungal cream or powder to be administered to the affected area. Although, cutaneous candidiasis can usually be resolved within a few weeks, it commonly returns if the patient does not take precautions. The following are some tips to keep the infection away.
- Dry skin fully and remove wet clothing as quickly as possible
- Change undergarments often
- Wear loose clothing
- Use gentle, fragrance free soaps
- Take probiotics
- Reduce the amount of sugar consumption.
A client with an outbreak of cutaneous candidiasis may be sensitive in the area of infection. It is best to avoid that area of the skin in order to not add anymore discomfort and avoid the possible spreading of the disease. If you notice your client has possibly developed cutaneous candidiasis or their current condition has worsened it is best to advise them to seek treatment from their physician.