Candida albicans (sometimes referred to as monilia) is a fungus that is normally present on the skin and in mucous membranes such as the vagina, mouth, or rectum. The fungus also can travel through the blood stream and affect the throat, intestines, and heart valves.
Candida albicans becomes an infectious agent when there is some change in the body environment that allows it to grow out of control.
Most of the time, candida infections of the mouth, skin, or vagina occur for no apparent reason. A common cause of infection may be the use of antibiotics that destroy beneficial, as well as harmful, microorganisms in the body, permitting candida to multiply in their place. The resulting condition is known as candidiasis moniliasis, or a "yeast" infection.
- is called thrush when it grows in the mouth, especially in infants
- shows up on skin as a red, inflamed, and sometimes scaly rash, such as diaper rash
- causes vaginalitis moniliasis, commonly known as a yeast infection, in the vagina
- causes candidal onchomycosis in the nails or paronychia next to the nails
- can also affect the esophagus and the digestive tract
Candidal infection of the penis is more common among uncircumcised than circumcised men and may result from sexual intercourse with an infected partner.
In rare instances, when body resistance is low as in leukemia or AIDS, candida albicans can enter the bloodstream and causes serious infection of vital organs.
Thrush appears as creamy-white or bluish-white patches on the tongue - which is inflamed and sometimes beefy red - and on the lining of the mouth, or in the throat.
Diaper rash caused by candida is an inflammation of the skin, usually red and sometimes scaly.
Vaginitis is characterized by a white or yellow discharge. Inflammation of the walls of the vagina and of the vulva (external genital area) causes burning and itching.
Infections of the fingernails and toenails appear as red, painful swelling around the nail. Later, pus may develop.
Infection of the penis often results in balanitis (inflammation of the head of the penis).
An infection in the bloodstream can affect the kidneys, heart, lungs, eyes, or other organs causing high fever, chills, anemia, and sometimes a rash or shock. Candida can cause the following problems depending upon the organ infected:
- in the kidneys can cause blood in the urine
- in the heart can cause murmurs and valve damage
- in the lungs can cause bloody sputum (mucus discharge)
- in the eyes can cause pain and blurred vision
- in the brain can cause seizures and acute changes in mental function or behavior
A medical history, physical exam, and laboratory tests, including blood tests, blood cultures, and wound cultures may be done. Tissue biopsy may be necessary to diagnose invasive systemic disease.
Most candida infections can be treated at home with OTC or prescription medication. These include topical administration of antifungal drugs such as clotrimazole (Femizole-7, Gyne-Lotrimin), miconazole (Monistat-Derm, Monistat Vaginal), nystatin, tioconazole (Vagistat Vaginal), or oral administration of drugs such as fluconazole (Diflucan) and amphotericin B. Many women prefer a single, oral dose of fluconazole for vaginal candidiasis, rather than topical creams. More serious infections may need IV medications given at the hospital.
Although antifungal drugs usually clear up the trouble, the infection can recur, sometimes as a result of reinfection by a sexual partner. Hence, treatment of both partners is sometimes necessary.
If possible, use of antibiotics should be discontinued during a candida infection. For diaper rashes, use barrier creams and change the diapers frequently. People with a tendency to skin candidiasis should keep their skin dry.
Keeping skin clean, dry, and free from abrasions or cuts can help prevent skin candida infections.