Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by the Candida species or all yeasts. Among the candida species, Candida albicans is the common. It is also referred as yeast infection, moniliasis, candidosis and odiomycosis.
Candidiasis includes infections which range from superficial to systemic to a life-threatening disease. Superficial infections are vaginitis and oral thrush. Systemic candida infections called candidemia are usually confined to patients who are severely immunocompromised like in transplant, cancer, and AIDS patients and as well as patients in emergency surgery.
19% of healthy woman have candida albicans but some have only few or no symptoms at all. Candida cells overgrowth is caused by the use of external detergents or hormonal imbalances which can disturb the vaginal normal flora that consist of lactic acid bacteria, the lactobacilli. The disruption in normal flora results to infection symptoms like local inflammation.
Oral contraceptives and pregnancy are also some risk factors. The use of antibacterial medications and diabetes are also linked to yeast infections. Infertility treatments and hormone replacement therapy may be added to the predisposing factors.
Diseases that weaken the immune system such as HIV or AIDS, cancer, mononucleosis, stress, steroids and nutrient deficiencies are linked to candidiasis which accounts to 15% of people having weak immune system.
Signs and Symptoms
Most candida or yeast infections are treatable but it results to symptoms like itching, redness and discomfort, though it can be fatal if left untreated. In immunocompromised persons, a localized skin infection is observed in oral cavity or thrush, in pharynx, esophagus, gastrointestinal tract, urinary bladder, and vagina or penis.
Symptoms vary depending on the affected area. Infection in the vagina causes severe itching, soreness, burning, irritation and whitish to gray cottage cheese like discharge. This can also be seen in bacterial vaginosis.
Culture or microscope examination is done to diagnose candida infection. Scraping is done to the affected area and placed on microscope slide which is then identified through light microscopy. A drop of 10% potassium chloride is added to the specimen. It diffuses the skin cells leaving the candida cells intact which permits visualization of yeast cells and pseudohyphae or other candida species.
In culturing method, the infected skin is swabbed through sterile technique and is lined in the culture medium. For several days, the cultured specimen is incubated at 37 degrees to allow growth of yeast colonies. The diagnosis is made through defining the characteristics of the organism such as color and morphology.
Candidiasis is usually treated with antimycotics, an antifungal drug which is commonly applied topically. Common topical antifungal drugs are nystatin, clotrimazole, ketoconazole and fluconazole.
In severe infections, caspofungin, amphotericin B or voriconazole are used. Medicated douches and vaginal suppositories are also used for local treatment.
Candida albicans can develop resistance to these drugs. If this occurs, another type of drug should be used.