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In 1923, a mycologist, Christine Marie Berkhout discussed Candida albicans in her doctoral thesis. This was considered a significant turning point in candidiasis research.
Candidiasis, a.k.a thrush, moniliasis, oidiomycosis or candidosis, is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the human body. The most common type of fungus causing this infection, amongst some 20 other species, is called Candida albicans. These fungal species live on the surface of the human body under normal condition as well, but in certain situations, they tend to grow beyond their usual numbers, thus causing candidiasis. Generally, exposed and moist parts of the human body such as oral cavity, underarms, skin folds or vagina are more susceptible to an infection. Candidiasis ranges from surface level infections, which are easily visible, to the infections affecting the internal tissues and organs, that can be potentially fatal. The yeast infection that may turn life-threatening is known as invasive candidiasis or candidemia.
Though the symptoms of candidiasis differ from person to person and depend on the area of the body that has been affected, some commonly observed symptoms include the following:
- Difficulty in swallowing food
- Pain in the abdomen
- Severe itching of skin
- Frequent urination
- Repeated infections of the urinary tract
- Abnormal cramps during menstruation
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Severe pain during intercourse
- Dry mouth and bleeding gums
- Mucus in stool
- White vaginal discharge and burning sensation in the vagina
- Severe itching and burning sensation in the penis
- White patches on tongue, inner cheeks, tonsils, gums and roof of the mouth
- Temporary loss of taste
- Sudden and frequent mood swings
- Depression and anxiety
- Pain and swelling of muscles and joints
- Redness or irritation in skin folds
- Abscess in the retina that may lead to (in extreme cases) permanent vision impairment
- Premature graying of hair
- Cravings for sweets and alcohol
- Severe pain in the ears
Candidiasis can be fatal if it reaches our vital organs or our bloodstream. Therefore, having knowledge of the factors that may lead to such a condition can be helpful. Following are some of the major causes of candidiasis:
- Constant and regular intake of antibiotics is one of the leading causes of candidiasis. Most antibiotics tend to kill the bacteria which are responsible for limiting the growth of fungi to a certain level. Hence the Candida fungi continue growing, thus infecting a person with candidiasis.
- Weakened immunity in people is also one of the important causes of candidiasis infection. This is because it is the weak immune system that aids the growth of Candida fungi in the human body, as there are lesser antibodies present to prevent and restrict the growth. This is precisely the reason why people with cancer or AIDS are more prone to this infection because they suffer from weaker immunity.
- Pregnant women are observed to be more prone to vaginal candidiasis than other women. It is due to the increased production of glycogen by the vagina, owing to the higher level of estrogen, in pregnant women. This leads to the speedy growth of yeast in the vagina.
- Intake of steroids can also lead to the excessive growth of Candida on the human body. This happens because regular steroid consumption often leads to the increased level of glucose thus, in turn, triggering the growth of the fungus causing candidiasis.
- If diabetics fail to take proper medication or follow recommended diet, due fluctuating levels of glucose, they are more likely to develop a candidiasis infection.
- Lower levels of estrogen after menopause can be a cause for concern, leading to the spread of candidiasis. This happens because the lower levels of estrogen leads to even lesser production of glycogen, thus enabling the fungus to grow even more rapidly.
- Some studies state that the use of oral contraceptives may also lead to the enhanced growth of Candida on the body. However, there is little evidence to support this.
- Heavy metal toxicity is also one of the causes of the growth and spread of yeast in human body. While we breathe, we also inhale minute particles of heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, lead and cadmium. These particles accumulate in our cells and, when their proportion is high, it automatically reduces the ability of the cells to produce energy. This absence of energy enhances the toxicity of the metals which is extremely harmful to organs such as brain and liver. Our body then makes desperate attempts to save itself from the havoc these metals may cause and this leads to incessant growth of the fungus.
- Poor dietary habits is also an important cause for the overgrowth of Candida fungus. Diet rich in carbohydrates and sugar gives Candida all the energy it needs to grow and spread. On the contrary, organic foods, rich in minerals and vitamins, help to limit the growth of the fungus.
- Some other indirect causes of candidiasis include, stress and regular exposure to pesticides and herbicides.
There are various treatment methods available for candidiasis. Mostly, people use home remedies to deal with the infection.
- One popular home remedy is rinsing the mouth with common salt which enhances the production of saliva thus decreasing the growth of Candida.
- Daily intake of yogurt also helps curb the growth of the fungus, alongside its other benefits.
- Garlic has antifungal, antibacterial and anti-viral properties. It thus helps to restrict the growth of Candida albicans.
- Other home remedies include, a diet of fresh and raw vegetables. Reducing sugar in the diet also helps in the treatment.
- The condition can be cured by antifungal medicines like, topical nystatin, topical clotrimazole, topical ketoconazole and fluconazole.
- In extreme cases, stronger antifungal drugs such as Caspofungin, Voriconazole and Amphotericin B may be used.
- In case of yeast infection in women, vaginal suppositories and medicated douches may be used. Acidophilus subsidiaries are also used for the treatment. Acidophilus is a bacterium that is naturally available in the human intestine. There are various Acidophilus supplements available in the market.
- Vaginal yeast infections are also treated by antifungal medication which are inserted directly into the vagina.
- There are other creams, ointments and suppositories as well.
Candidiasis treatment not only depends upon the past medical record of the patient, but also on its severity and location. Cutaneous (skin) candidiasis and oral candidiasis can be treated by application of antifungal creams and ointments on the infected areas. On the other hand, vaginal candidiasis and esophageal candidiasis may be treated with a combination of antifungal creams and oral dosages. Only a medical expert will be able to decide what is right for that situation.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.