Candidiasis is an infection by the fungus candida albicans. Candida is a normal organism in our gut, mouths and genital areas. It takes part in ensuring that the environment of the skin, vagina and gut is optimal. Being a part of the bacteria and fungi normal to our bodies, it does not usually cause any disease. However under specific circumstances, candida does cause problems.
We could summarize and say any situation that reduces your immunity could lead to candida over growth (the infection). These include;
- Having diabetes
- Skin that is moister and warmer than usual
- Treatments for organ transplant
- HIV infection
- Treatment with antibiotics which mess up the delicate fungus-bacteria balance
- Patients in intensive care units
Candida infection is a classic example of an opportunistic infection. This is an infection that takes advantage of a situation that is out of the normal in the body. Unfortunately, cases of candida overgrowth are getting worse rather than better. As such, we can only expect infections by candida to only get more common with time.
There is usually an amount of candida on the skin that is considered normal. When there is a spike in the amounts of this particular type of fungi then you get an infection which may present as a rash on the skin. Common causes of the appearance and exacerbation of this rash may include the following;
- Poor hygiene
- Warm conditions
- Tight clothing
- Failure to change into fresh under garments daily
- Constant use of antibiotics
- Constantly damp skin
- A compromised immune system
While thrush of the vagina (yeast infection) and of the mouth (oral thrush) are more common, not many know that candida can infect virtually any part of your body. When a child gets a rush around their bottoms and hips area when their diapers are not changed frequently enough, they get a nappy/diaper rash. This is caused by the candida.
Candida infection of the skin covering other surfaces of the body for example the lips and the lining of the mouth, skin of penis and vagina are grouped together as infections of the skin and mucous membranes (mucocutenous infection). These are the most common candida infections.
In its most severe form, candida infection of the skin can lead to the formation of an abscess. The worst case scenario is when these infections become so extensive that they become a blood infection. This will typically result in an admission.
Infections of the nails are rare. However for those with conditions compromising their immune systems described above, they can get nail infections with candida (onychomycosis for the geeks).
On the skin, a candida infection will present itself as a red rash (darker color of skin for people of color) which is itchy and mostly found in the folds of the skin. The infection is mostly found in the folds of the skin due the fungus’ preference for warm moist parts of the body.
Since candida is an opportunistic infection, to prevent infection of candida of the skin and nails, one has to ensure that their immune systems are working well. This includes managing your diabetes well, managing your stress, changing the baby regularly to avoid nappy rash, and using powerful antibiotics only when necessary. Even so, it may not be 100% possible to avoid an infection with candida.
The appearance of the lesion on the skin and nails are what will clue the doctor in to the fact that an infection on the nails or skin is candida. Infection of the skin as described above will cause reddening of the skin, formation of a rash which is quite itchy. Infections around the skin of the mouth will result in a painful crack on the side of the mouth. The nail infection will produce thickened nail with a change in color (typically to a white color).
A sample of a scrap from the lesion will be taken for laboratory testing. This is a simple test that should take a few minutes to confirm the infection by the fungus.
Luckily, candida of the skin and nails is quite easy to treat. For candida infection of the skin, one can use topical anti-fungal creams. These are easily found in your neighborhood pharmacy. These creams depend on the medication being able to penetrate through the skin to reach the part of the fungus that is embedded inside the skin. While this is possible through the skin, the nail is impenetrable and hence a skin cream will not do. For the treatment of the nail infection of candida, one will need to take oral medication. The length of the treatment is quite long (up to 6 months in extensive cases).
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