Candidiasis (Yeast Infection) Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Diet And Home Remedies

Candidiasis (Yeast Infection) Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Diet And Home Remedies

What is Candidiasis (Yeast Infection)?

Candidiasis, also called thrush or moniliasis, is a yeast infection. Candida albicans is an organism that normally makes a quiet home for itself on your skin and doesn't bother anyone. We all carry this organism on our skin, in our mouth, in our gastrointestinal tract (gut), and, in the case of women, in the vagina.

Occasionally the yeast multiplies uncontrollably, causing pain and inflammation. Candidiasis may affect the skin. This includes the external surface skin and the skin of the vagina, the penis, and the mouth. Candidiasis may also infect the blood stream or internal organs such as the liver or spleen. By far the most common problems are skin, mouth and vaginal infections. It also is a common cause of diaper rash. These can be bothersome infections, but are not life threatening.

Candidiasis can kill if it reaches the bloodstream or vital organs such as the heart, but this is rare even in people with damaged immune systems and is almost unheard of in healthy people. Nevertheless, candidiasis is a constant nuisance, and sometimes a serious threat to people with AIDS and some cancer patients who lack the immune resources to fight it.

Causes of Candidiasis

You don't catch candidiasis. The yeast is already there. A number of factors can increase the chance of the yeast growing out of control. The leading cause is overuse of antibiotics. Yeast must compete for the right to live on us with various other organisms, many of them bacteria. These bacteria, which live on the skin and in the intestine and vagina, among other places, are harmless but good at fighting off yeast. When we take antibiotics to deal with less friendly bacteria, we kill off these harmless ones as well. Yeast, which is unaffected by antibiotics, moves into the vacated spots once occupied by bacteria, and starts to grow and multiply.

Steroids and some cancer medications weaken the immune system and can allow yeast to flourish. Candida albicans infections of the mouth (known as oral thrush) most often develop in people with diseases such as cancer and AIDS. They can also develop in people with diabetes or in people who have long-term irritation resulting from dentures. Taking birth control pills increases your chances of getting vaginal candidiasis. Hot weather and tight clothing are also risk factors, as they create the ideal environment for candida.

Other conditions that tend to encourage yeast include obesity and pregnancy. Yeast generally infects intertriginous areas, that is, areas where skin contacts skin. Overweight people have more folds in their skin. They also sweat more, and Candida albicans is fond of moist skin. Pregnancy causes temporary obesity and may weaken the immune system, increasing the risk of yeast infections.

Experts disagree on the question of sexual transmission. Some research has suggested that it's very unlikely for an infected woman to give a man candidiasis. On the other hand, it's not unlikely that a man could give candidiasis back to his partner once he has it. Recent research has actually found Candida albicans in the sperm of men whose partners suffered from recurrent yeast infections. You should be aware of this possibility if a yeast infection keeps coming back.

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Candidiasis (Yeast Infection) Symptoms and Signs

Signs and symptoms of a candidal infection can vary depending on the location of the infection.

Candidiasis (Yeast Infection) Symptoms and Signs in women

In women, signs and symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are a white discharge that is thick and often described as having a cottage cheese appearance. The infection typically causes itching and irritates the vagina and surrounding outer tissues. On occasion there may be pain with sexual intercourse or burning with urination.

Genital yeast infection in men

Men may develop symptoms of a genital yeast infection after intercourse with a woman who has a vaginal yeast infection. However, yeast infection is not sonsidered to be a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) because women can have the yeast normally in the body and do not acquire it from an outside source. Most experts do not recommend treatment of male sex partners of women with candida yeast infection unless they develop symptoms. Symptoms can include itching and burning of the penis as well as a rash on the skin of the penis.

In infants and adults, a candidal infection can appear many different ways.

Oral candidiasis is called thrush. Thick, white lacy patches on top of a red base can form on the tongue, palate, or elsewhere inside the mouth. These patches sometimes look like milk curds but cannot be wiped away as easily as milk can. If the white plaques are wiped away with a blade or cotton-tipped applicator, the underlying tissue may bleed. This infection also may make the tongue look red without the white coating. Thrush can be painful and make it difficult to eat. Care should be given to make sure a person with thrush does not become dehydrated. Thrush was formerly referred to as moniliasis, based upon an older name for Candid albicans (Monilia).

Candidal organisms naturally live on the skin, but breakdown of the outer layers of skin promote the yeast's overgrowth. This typically occurs when the environment is warm and moist such as in diaper areas and skin folds. Superficial candidal skin infections appear as a red flat rash with sharp scalloped edges. There are usually smaller patches of similar appearing rash nearby, known as "satellite lesions." These rashes may cause itching or pain.

Candidiasis (Yeast Infection) In people with weakened immune systems

Candidal infections can affect various internal organs and cause pain or dysfunction of the organ. People with suppressed immune systems due to AIDS, chemotherapy, or other conditions may contract a yeast infection called esophagitis in their upper gastrointestinal (GI) systems. This infection is similar to thrush but extends down the mouth and esophagus to the stomach. Candida esophagitis can cause painful ulcers throughout the GI system, making it too painful to swallow even liquids. If the infection spreads into the intestines, food may be poorly absorbed. People with this condition are in danger of becoming dehydrated. There may be associated pain in the area of the sternum (breast bone), pain in the upper abdomen, and/or nausea and vomiting.

If Candida gets into the bloodstream, the person may become sick with or without fever. If the infection spreads to the brain, they may have acute changes in mental function or behavior.

Diagnosing Candidiasis (Yeast Infection)

Diagnostic tests for candidiasis include the following:

  • Mucocutaneous candidiasis - For a wet mount, scrapings or smears obtained from skin, nails, or oral or vaginal mucosa are examined under the microscope; a potassium hydroxide smear, Gram stain, or methylene blue is useful for direct demonstration of fungal cells
  • Cutaneous candidiasis - Using a wet mount, scrapings or smears obtained from skin or nails can be examined under the microscope; potassium hydroxide smears are also useful
  • Genitourinary candidiasis - A urinalysis should be performed; evidence of white blood cells (WBCs), red blood cells (RBCs), protein, and yeast cells is common; urine fungal cultures are useful
  • Gastrointestinal candidiasis - Endoscopy with or without biopsy

When to call the doctor

For healthy children and adults, if a medication is tried and fails, or symptoms become worse, consult your health care practitioner. All people with weakened immune systems should contact their health care practitioners with any new symptoms or infections.

Various conditions can cause nonmenstrual vaginal discharge in women, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and bacterial vaginosis.

  • If you are having abnormal vaginal discharge and are not sure whether you have a yeast infection, consult your health care professional.
  • If yeast infections recur, see your doctor for a more thorough work-up. Candidiasis that recurs may be a symptom of a hidden disease such as diabetes, leukemia, or AIDS.
  • Other symptoms such as bloody discharge, abdominal pain, fever, and increased urination also can indicate more serious problems, and you should seek medical help.
Oral thrush needs a prescription medication and a prompt visit to the doctor. If children take no fluids for longer than 12 hours, contact your doctor. Any fever or prolonged problems with feeding also warrant a visit to a doctor.

Diaper rash or other candidal infections on the skin can be treated with over-the-counter nystatin powders (Mycostatin, Nilstat, Nystat-Rx, Nystex, O-V Staticin) or antifungal creams and lotions.

  • If the rash worsens at any time, or if the lesions do not clear in 1-2 weeks, call your doctor.
  • Fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or the rash spreading to other parts of your body may be a sign of a more serious illness.
People with weakened immune systems must take all forms of candidiasis seriously and treat them aggressively. The infection may indicate that your immune system is functioning poorly. Your doctor should evaluate any symptoms of candidal infections.

  • If you already are being treated for a candidal infection and the symptoms worsen or do not improve, notify your doctor.
  • Fevers, chills, vomiting, general illness, or worsening rash needs to be investigated promptly.

Treating and Preventing  for Candidiasis (Yeast Infection)

Candidiasis isn't normally a dangerous disease except in rare cases when it enters the blood and spreads to vital organs of people with weakened immune systems.

For infection of the skin, your doctor can give you an antifungal cream or powder or prescribe you an antifungal pill. For vaginal yeast infections, treatment consists of antifungal medications that are administered directly into the vagina as tablets, creams, ointments, or suppositories, or administered by mouth (e.g., fluconazole). For oral thrush, a suspension of antifungal medication can be swished in the mouth and swallowed, or sometimes the doctor will have you dissolve an antifungal lozenge in the mouth.

For severe cases, antifungal medication taken by mouth for several days may be needed. Speak with your pharmacist - you can buy many of the creams and powder products intended for minor infections without a prescription.

Here are some hygiene tips to help prevent vaginal candidiasis:

  • Wipe from front to back after going to the toilet - the rectal area is full of yeast
  • Take baths not showers - sitting in the bath can clear yeast from the vaginal area
  • Dry yourself thoroughly afterwards, especially the pubic hair - use a hair dryer on low setting if you have to
  • Don't use soap around the vagina - soap kills the bacteria you want to keep, and has no effect on yeast
  • Sterilize or throw away underwear that you wore during your last infection - the washing machine isn't hot enough, you must boil them if you want to keep them. You must also replace any diaphragms or caps.
  • Avoid chemicals like deodorant tampons and especially vaginal douches, which serve no purpose and may cause infection

These sensible precautions may also help prevent candidiasis:

  • Wear loose cotton underwear
  • Avoid pantyhose and tight pants
  • Eat live yogurt, especially if you have been prescribed antibiotics or have other factors which increase your risk for yeast infections - pasteurized yogurt isn't effective. Some health food stores carry lactobacillus acidophilus pills which may help to keep yeast in check
  • Cut down on sugar and alcohol (yeast's favourite foods)
  • Consider changing "the pill" - if you've had recurring infections, talk to your doctor about changing your birth control pill and see if it helps
  • Make sure your partner is not infected - there's no point curing candidiasis if you're going to be re-infected
  • Don't ask for antibiotics if you've got a cold or the flu - the flu is caused by viruses, so taking antibiotics won't help and they might provoke candidiasis

Diet And Home Remedies for Candidiasis (Yeast Infection)


  • Try and stay cool. Heat and damp environments make it worse.
  • The sugars in alcohol will exacerbate the condition. Definitely avoid beer.
  • Stress really does make it worse, especially worry and anxiety.
  • Apply yoghurt topically to vagina to reduce fungus growth.
  • Seek professional advice if you have persistent Candida. It may be a symptom of an underlying illness.
  • Check for mercury poisoning. This can lead to Candidiasis.
  • Candidiasis is common in those with AIDS.
  • Avoid overeating.
  • Reduce raw food, as these will weaken digestion.
  • Eat simply, avoiding too many flavours in one meal.
  • It is very important to re-establish good bacteria in the gut after taking antibiotics. Use miso, sauerkraut, acidophilus, sea veggies or wheat or barley grass. (Remember that animals are fed antibiotics, so if you are eating animal products, the above food should be a regular part of your diet.)
  • Exercise regularly and moderately.

Herbal Medicine

  • Pau D'arco is an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial herb as well as being immune boosting. It may be drunk as a tea for maintenance.
  • Citrus Seed Extract. This anti-microbial extract works in the same way as an antibiotic. It bombs everything in the gut, good and bad. You have to be quite strong and healthy to do this however, you will have no defence as the good bacterium has been bombed as well. (Try Pau Darco first.) You must be gentle on yourself during this time. No late nights, too much alcohol, going out with wet hair etc., as you will be susceptible to illness. Dose: Take 9 drops of the liquid extract a day. I would advise you purchase a bottle of vegetable capsules from your health food store or chemist and drop the extract in these before taking. This medicine is really very awful. After the two weeks is up, and you will probably not be feeling great in that time, is imperative that you follow with a bottle of acidophilus to re-establish the good gut flora.
  • Golden Seal will help repair inflamed intestinal lining.

Foods to Include

  • Essential Fatty acids from fish, flaxseed oil and olive oil will protect your cells from damage.
  • Yoghurt with live cultures to reduce fungal growth.
  • Eat a wholefoods diet, including fish, brown rice, fruit and veggies and legumes, (especially mung beans) and other whole grains.
  • Complex Carbohydrates, chewed properly can be helpful, not harmful like once thought.
  • Seaweeds: their iodine content will deactivate yeasts.
  • Green plants like parsley, watercress, cabbage, wheatgrass, and spirulina have high amounts of chlorophyll, which promote a healthy intestinal flora.

Foods to Avoid

  • Sugar: in all forms as Candida thrives on it.
  • Yeast: as Candida is yeast, adding baker's yeast just makes the problem a whole lot worse. (Don’t forget that yeast in is Vegemite and Promite etc). Instead eat sourdough bread, made from spelt or kamut flour.
  • Refined carbohydrates: these usually aren’t tolerated anyway. These foods turn very quickly into sugar which Candida thrives on.
  • Fermented foods like tempeh, miso, soy sauce and vinegars.
  • Fruit. One piece a day should be OK, as fruit is full of fructose (a sugar). Avoid acidic types like oranges, limes, pineapples, grapefruit, lemons and tomatoes.). Dried fruits are a non-no.
  • Nuts and seed, unless freshly roasted.