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Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by an excessive proliferation of yeast in your body. Healthy bacteria help balance the amount of yeast, and disrupting this equilibrium causes an infection. Antifungal drugs treat candidiasis. It often eradicate the infection within two days to two weeks, depending on severity.

What is candidiasis?

Candidiasis, commonly known as a yeast infection, is a fungal infection. It is caused by various species of Candida, specifically Candida albicans. This yeast is naturally present in small amounts on the skin, mouth, and intestines of the human body. However, when yeast and beneficial bacteria are out of balance, the yeast can overgrow and lead to an infection. 

Candidiasis is a common condition. It can be uncomfortable and bothersome but, it is usually not a major threat to a person’s overall health.

Types of Candidiasis

Since yeast naturally lives in the human body, there are different types of candidiasis based on the location of the infection. The most common types of candidiasis include:

  1. Oral thrush: This type of candidiasis affects the mouth. It causes white or yellow patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums, or roof of the mouth.
  2. Vaginal yeast infection: This type of candidiasis affects the vagina. It causes symptoms such as:
    • Itching
    • Burning
    • a thick, white discharge
  3. Skin candidiasis: This type affects the skin. It causes red, itchy, and scaly rashes. It often occurs in warm, moist areas of the body, such as the armpits, groin, or under the breasts.
  4. Invasive candidiasis: This is a serious and potentially life-threatening infection. It can affect the blood, heart, brain, and other organs. It is more common in people who have weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or diabetes.
  5. Candida granuloma: A serious persistent infection that affects your mouth, skin, fingernails, or scalp.

Causes of Candidiasis

Candidiasis develops when there is an overgrowth of Candida fungus. This is naturally present in the body in small quantities. Several factors can contribute to this overgrowth, including:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Taking antibiotics, oral contraceptives, steroids, and medications that inhibit good bacteria.
  • Consuming a diet high in processed carbs, sugar, and yeast.
  • Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during pregnancy or while taking oral contraceptives
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Cancer
  • HIV
  • Poor hygiene
  • Feeling stressed
  • Warm and humid environments

Symptoms of Candidiasis

Candidiasis symptoms vary depending on the location of the infection. In general, candidiasis causes discomfort, itching, and irritation.

  • Oral thrush symptoms include white or yellow patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums, or roof of the mouth. 
  • Vaginal yeast infection symptoms include itching, burning, and a thick, white discharge. 
  • Skin candidiasis symptoms include red, itchy, and scaly rashes. It is often found in warm, moist areas of the body.

Is Candidiasis Contagious?

Candidiasis is typically not considered contagious like the flu virus However, the fungi that cause candidiasis can be transmitted from person to person through:

  • direct contact
  • sexual intercourse
  • from mother to infant during childbirth

Who Does Candidiasis Affect?

Candidiasis can affect individuals of any age, gender, or race. However, certain populations may be more susceptible to developing candidiasis, including:

  • Infants and young children
  • Pregnant women
  • Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy
  • Diabetic individuals
  • People taking antibiotics or corticosteroids

Treatment of Candidiasis

Antifungal medications are used to treat candidiasis and stop the overgrowth of yeast. These medications come in two forms: topical and oral. 

  • Topical antifungal medications are applied directly to the affected area.
  • Oral antifungal medications are taken by mouth. The type of medication and the length of treatment will depend on the location and severity of the infection.

Other treatment options include:

  • Antifungal mouthwash or lozenges: Oral thrush is treated with antifungal mouthwash or lozenges.
  • Antifungal suppositories or creams: Genital candidiasis may be treated with antifungal suppositories or creams.
  • Systemic antifungal therapy: Invasive candidiasis requires intravenous antifungal medications.

Prevention of Candidiasis

Preventing candidiasis involves adopting healthy habits and minimizing risk factors. Key prevention strategies include:

  • Maintaining good hygiene, particularly in genital and skin folds
  • Avoiding tight-fitting clothing and synthetic fabrics that trap moisture
  • Practicing safe sex to reduce the risk of genital candidiasis
  • Limiting the use of antibiotics unless prescribed by a healthcare professional
  • Managing underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, to prevent complications

Candidiasis is a common fungal infection that can affect different parts of the body. By understanding the types, causes, symptoms, who it affects, whether it’s contagious, and the prevention and treatment methods, you can take proactive steps to protect yourself and seek medical attention when necessary. With proper treatment and prevention, candidiasis can be managed and relieved.