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Candidiasis

Diagnosis & Expected Duration

Monday, Aug. 27, 2007; 7:44 PM

Copyright Harvard Health Publications 2007

Diagnosis

Table of Contents

Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, including diabetes, cancer, HIV, and other chronic illnesses. He or she also will ask you about your diet and about your recent use of antibiotics or medications that can suppress the immune system. If your doctor suspects cutaneous candidiasis, he or she may ask about how you care for your skin and about conditions that expose your skin to excessive moisture, such as occlusive clothing or rubber gloves.

Your doctor often can diagnose thrush, cutaneous candidiasis, or vaginal yeast infection by a simple physical examination. However, if the diagnosis is in question, your doctor may scrape the surface to obtain cells to examine under a microscope, or he or she may culture a skin sample to identify fungus or yeast in the sample. A culture is especially helpful if you have a yeast infection that returns after treatment. In this case, the culture can help identify whether the yeast is resistant to usual antibiotic treatments. If your doctor suspects that you may have an undiagnosed medical illness that increases your risk of candidiasis - such as diabetes, cancer or HIV - blood tests or other types of diagnostic procedures may be necessary.

To diagnose Candida esophagitis, your doctor will examine your esophagus with an endoscope, a flexible instrument that is passed into your esophagus to let your doctor look at the area directly. During this examination, called endoscopy, your doctor will take a sample of tissue (either a biopsy or a "brushing") from your esophagus to be examined in a laboratory.

To diagnose deep candidiasis, your doctor will draw a sample of blood to be checked in a laboratory for growth of Candida fungi or other infectious agents.

Expected Duration

In otherwise healthy people who have thrush, cutaneous candidiasis or vaginal yeast infections, Candida infections usually can be eliminated with a short treatment (sometimes a single dose) of antifungal medication. However, in people with AIDS or other diseases that weaken the immune system, Candida infections can be difficult to treat and can return after treatment is complete. In people with weakened immune systems, candidiasis can be life threatening if it passes into the blood and spreads to vital organs.

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