All you have ever wanted to know about Candidiasis

Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by a yeast (a type of fungus) called Candida. Some species of Candida can cause infection in people; the most common is Candida albicans. Candida normally lives on the skin and inside the body, in places such as the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina, without causing any problems. Candida can cause infections if it grows out of control or if it enters deep into the body (for example, the bloodstream or internal organs like the kidney, heart, or brain). Some types of Candida are resistant to the antifungals used to treat them.


Candidiasis that develops in the mouth or throat is called thrush or oropharyngeal candidiasis. Candidiasis in the vagina is commonly referred to as a yeast infection. Invasive candidiasis occurs when Candida species enter the bloodstream or affect internal organs like the kidney, heart, or brain.


How does Candida Albicans affect the body?

Candida is typically not life-threatening, but if left untreated, it can spread and eventually reach the bloodstream. Once the fungus is circulating throughout the body, it can affect vital organs like the brain and heart and cause more serious complications, including death.


Because candidiasis can affect various parts of the body – the most common being the mouth, ears, nose, toenails, fingernails, gastrointestinal tract, and vagina – it can be characterized by a wide array of symptoms. These include constipation, diarrhea, colitis, abdominal pain, headaches, bad breath, rectal itching, impotence, memory loss, mood swings, prostatitis, canker sores, persistent heartburn, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, congestion, nagging cough, numbness, in the face or extremities, tingling sensation, acne, night sweats, severe itching, clogged sinuses, PMS, burning tongue, white spots on the tongue and in the mouth, extreme fatigue, vaginitis, kidney and bladder infections, arthritis, depression, hyperactivity, hypothyroidism adrenal problems, and even diabetes. 


When the candida fungus infects the mouth, it is called thrush. White sores form on the tongue, gums, and inside the cheek. In a baby, the white spots of oral thrush may resemble milk spots. Oral thrush in an infant can spread to the mother’s nipple by breastfeeding, and can lead to a situation in which mother and baby continually re-infect each other. Thrush may also infect a baby’s buttocks, appearing as a diaper rash. Candida infection may also take the form of athlete’s foot or jock itch. Systemic candidiasis is an overgrowth of the candida everywhere, throughout the body. In the most severe cases, candida can travel through the bloodstream to invade every organ system in the body, causing a type of blood poisoning called candida septicemia. This condition most always occurs in persons with serious underlying illnesses, such as advanced cancer or AIDS.


How do you get Candida Albicans?

Candidiasis may affect both men and women; however, it is rarely transmitted sexually. It is most common in babies (an infected mother may pass the fungal infection to her newborn) and in persons with compromised immune systems – and as it proliferates, the fungus releases toxins that weaken the immune system further. Other factors that increase the chances of contracting a yeast infection include pregnancy and the use of corticosteroids drugs.

Very often, people with candida infections also have food allergies. Oral thrush, athlete’s foot, ringworm, jock itch, fingernail or toenail fungus, and even diaper rash can develop as a result of the combination of food allergies and C. albicans. The symptoms of a food allergy or environmental sensitivity can also mimic those of candidiasis. To further complicate matters, some people with candidiasis go on to develop environmental sensitivities as well. Many cannot tolerate contact with rubber, petroleum products, tobacco, exhaust fumes, and chemical odors.

Yeasts, including candida, feed on sugar. If the body’s PH balance is upset for any reason, the friendly bacteria (such as lactobacilli) that normally metabolize sugars cannot thrive and do their job properly, and there is a risk of candida albicans flourishing in this sugar-rich environment. 

Some women find they suffer more yeast infections when using oral contraceptives or during pregnancy. This is most probably due to an increase in the amount of sugar (glycogen) in the vagina induced by changing hormone levels. Antibiotics, which kill beneficial bacteria along with the harmful ones, are another common cause of yeast infections. Anything that depresses immune function, including HIV and AIDS, also often leads to these types of infections. In fact, it is said that infections such as candidiasis rarely occur in people with robust immune systems who eat a healthy diet that is low in sugar and yeast.

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