What is Candidiasis (Thrush)?

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Candiadiasis, or Thrush, is a fungal infection caused by a group of yeast.

There is a score of Candida species, the commonest of which is Candida albicans. They normally inhabit the surfaces and mucus linings of the human body. This includes mouth, vaginal cavity gastrointestinal tract etc.

Sometimes when they multiply especially in warm and moist areas they may lead to infections.

Candida infection occurs in individuals who have low immune system functions like those with diabetes. AIDS, blood and other cancers etc. (1)

Where does Thrush occur?

Candida infections can occur in the vagina (vaginal thrush or vulvovaginal candidiasis), oral cavity (oral thrush), skin and diaper rash and nail beds.

Sometimes rarely the yeast infection spreads throughout the body. This is called systemic or invasive candidiasis.

Major types of Candida infections include oral thrush; genital/vulvovaginal Candidiasis and invasive Candidiasis. (2, 3, 4)

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush occurs when there is overgrowth of Candida in the mouth and pharynx (back of the mouth). Sometimes the food pipe or esophagus may be affected as well.

This is called Candida esophagitis or esophageal candidiasis.

This may be commonly seen within new born babies.

Adults with lowered immune system may suffer from oral thrush. There is burning and stinging at the site of the lesion. On examination creamy white patches may be seen.

Those with ill-fitting dentures also commonly suffer oral thrush.

Genital / Vulvovaginal Candidiasis

This may be called “yeast infection”. It occurs when the normal hormonal or acid balance of the vaginal environment changes.

Genital candidiasis may affect men as well. In them it is called penile candidiasis.

There may be itching, irritation and swelling around the vagina or over the penis.

There is presence of characteristic creamy white cheese-like discharge.

The problem with genital candidiasis is it keeps coming back.

Genital thrush is common in women who are pregnant and needs therapy.

Invasive Candidiasis

Refers to the condition when Candida invades the bloodstream. From here Candida goes on to major organs and spreads the infection.

This may be a life threatening condition needing intensive therapy.

Edited by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Candidiasis (Thrush) Causes
Candidiasis (Thrush) Symptoms
Candidiasis (Thrush) Diagnosis
Candidiasis (Thrush) Treatment

Sources:

  1. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/candidiasis-yeast-infection
  2. http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/candidiasis/
  3. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Thrush/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/oralthrush2.shtml
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