Candidiasis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments
Candidiasis is an easily transmitted and rather common infection that affects tens of millions of people every year; therefore, being able to identify its symptoms and understanding the risk factors are critically important prior the treatment. Candidiasis, is a fungal infection caused by yeasts from Candida genus. It affects skin, mouth & vagina. Treatments include use of tea tree oil, garlic, & clotrimazole.
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What is Candidiasis?
Candidiasis is one of the most common fungal infections in the world and is caused by yeasts from the Candida genus. These yeasts are a type of fungus and while they are generally considered harmless, candidiasis should still be taken seriously. This fungal infection could be indicative of a more serious underlying condition that is weakening your immune system.
What many people fail to understand is that yeast from the Candida genus and many other types of fungus exist in and on the body all the time, on the skin and in the mouth/stomach membranes. However, the body’s natural bacterial balance keeps the growth of this fungus in check. Unfortunately, when the conditions for growth are ideal, or when the bacterial balance is compromised in some way, the fungus will aggressively spread, resulting in candidiasis.
Types of Candidiasis
There are four main types of candidiasis, which affect the mouth, the skin, the genitals, and the internal organs. Depending on the type and where in the body the infection occurs, it will manifest in different ways and may require various treatment strategies.
Genital Candidiasis: Commonly known as a yeast infection, this is one of the most common forms of candidiasis. When the yeast in a woman’s vagina grows unchecked, it can result in itchiness, pain or discomfort during sex, a white discharge from the vagina, and inflammation of the vaginal tissues. It can be caused by pregnancy, certain spermicides or lubricants, a weakened immune system or diabetes. Although rare, a yeast infection can be passed to a male partner, where it may result in a rash or discomfort on the penis.
Oropharyngeal Candidiasis: We all have Candida in our mouths but when it grows out of control, it can cause small white patches on the tongue, roof of the mouth, inner cheeks, tonsils and the back of the throat. People who are elderly, suffer from diabetes, are being treated for cancer, use an inhaler, or have a weakened immune system are susceptible to this variety, also commonly known as oral thrush. If this infection spreads to the throat, it can cause painful swallowing, and may lead to Candida infections in other parts of the body.
Invasive Candidiasis: This particularly dangerous variety of Candida infection occurs when the fungus enters the bloodstream, often following a medical procedure. This will allow the infection to spread to the heart, brain, eyes and other parts of the body. Depending on where in the body the infection lands, there are different names for the infection and is potentially life-threatening. Aggressive anti-fungal medication is required to clear the body of this infection.
Cutaneous Candidiasis: This type of infection attacks the skin, typically in areas where the skin folds over, or where there is perpetual dampness or perspiration. The buttocks, groin, armpits, and the skin between the fingers and toes are common places for the yeast to overgrow, resulting in red, itchy or flaky skin. Treatment of this variety of candidiasis is usually the simplest, as it is the most obvious and visible form of this infection.
Causes of Candidiasis
As mentioned, the fundamental cause of candidiasis is various yeasts of the Candida genus, but there are also many risk factors that can trigger this infection, such as obesity, tight clothing, poor hygiene, damp conditions, a weakened immune system and the use of certain medications, among others.
Obesity: If you are overweight, there is a good chance that some parts of your body have excess skin that folds over, making the conditions suitable for candidiasis, particularly of the cutaneous variety. This can also put general pressure on your immune system, making it easier for this infection to spread in other parts of the body.
Clothing Choice: Tight or restrictive clothing that doesn’t allow proper airflow can easily cause an overgrowth of Candida yeast, particularly in the buttocks and genital areas. It is essential to change your undergarments every day to avoid yeast infections and cutaneous candidiasis.
Medications: If you regularly use an inhaler, or have been prescribed antibiotics for any other infection or illness, those medications could cause an imbalance in your bacteria levels, leading to an overgrowth of Candida. This is an underlying factor for every type of this infection, particularly oral thrush.
Damp Conditions: This fungi requires a damp environment to grow and thrive, which is why it is so often found in locker rooms, public showers and pools, and unclean clothes. Avoid exposure of your skin to these areas, as they are perfect breeding grounds for Candida.
Hygiene: It is essential that you properly wash yourself on a regular basis to clear out any potential areas where Candida is spreading. This includes the bottom of your feet, your genital and buttocks areas, your armpits, and any other hard-to-reach spot on your body.
Weakened Immune System: If you have an autoimmune disease, are recovering from an extended illness, or have a generally weak immune response, you are a prime candidate for candidiasis.
Symptoms of Candidiasis
Depending on the type of candidiasis, your symptoms may appear in different forms, but they generally include fatigue, joint pain, mood issues, brain fog, discoloration of the skin/nails, sinus infections and food sensitivity, in addition to the symptoms of the specific types of candida infection explained above.
Joint Pain: Many people report joint pain and inflammation as a symptom of this infection, particularly if you are suffering from invasive candidiasis.
Chronic Fatigue: When this infection reaches the gut, it can do serious damage to the flora environment there, making it more difficult for nutrients to be properly absorbed. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies and a chronic lack of energy.
Cognitive Dullness: Also referred to as a brain fog, a Candida overgrowth will release an excess amount of acetaldehyde, which can slow oxygen delivery to the brain and do damage to nerve cells that are integral in cognitive function.
Skin/Nail Discoloration: The immune system of the gut can affect all other parts of the body, so when a Candida infection strikes, it can cause a change in your skin’s bacterial balance, leading to discoloration and inflammation.
Sinus Infections: If you regularly use antibiotics, it can make it difficult for the body to fight off future infections, allowing Candida to take up residence in the sinus cavity and cause chronic sinus infections.
Food Sensitivity: When this fungus overgrows in the gut, it can lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome, in which digested food particles enters the bloodstream, is recognized as a foreign particle, and is attacked by the body’s immune system, resulting in unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.
Mood Swings: If the candidiasis infection reaches the gut, it can affect the neurotransmitter levels in the body, specifically serotonin, leading to stress, anxiety, depression and a generally lowered mood.
Treatments for Candidiasis
Again, the formal treatment options for candidiasis depend on the type and severity, but will typically include anti-fungal preparations and corticosteroids, among others.
The most popular topical anti-fungal treatments are clotrimazole, miconazole, nystatin and ketoconazole. Systemic oral azoles are the other common approach to treating this infection, and include fluconazole and itraconazole, which are better for treating an infection that has spread throughout the body, rather than being localized.
Home Remedies for Candidiasis
For those who want to avoid formal treatment and prefer not to use pharmaceutical solutions, some of the best home remedies for candidiasis include the use of tea tree oil, garlic, oregano oil, apple cider vinegar, yogurt, and other dietary changes.
A high-sugar diet is a serious risk factor for this infection, as the Candida yeast will feed off that sugar in the gut, giving it the resources it needs to spread to other parts of the body. A high-fiber and high-antioxidant diet of fruits and vegetables is recommended to optimize digestive health.
Packed with antioxidants, and anti-fungal and sulfuric compounds, this common spice is an excellent dietary addition to fight candidiasis in the gut but diluted garlic juice can also be used topically for various types of this infection.
With its active ingredient thymol, a potent anti-fungal and antioxidant compound, this oil can be topically applied to cutaneous and vaginal candidiasis, but you should speak with a doctor before using such a powerful natural remedy.
Tea Tree Oil
Known as one of the most anti-fungal substances ever discovered, a few drops of diluted tea tree oil can quickly remedy topical infections and re-balance your bacterial defenses.
Particularly in the case of gastrointestinal infection, yogurt and its probiotics will help to eliminate the fungal infection and re-set the bacterial balance in your gut to more effectively manage the Candida yeast that is present.