Types of Candida
There are different types of Candida, each of the types have different manifestations on different people.
- Oral thrush - "Thrush" is the common name for the mouth infection caused by Candida albicans. It is a superficial, sometimes recurrent infection that affects moist surfaces around the lips, inside the cheeks and on the tongue and palate. Oral thrush is generally not contagious.
- Oesophageal thrush (Oesophagitis) - Oral thrush can spread to the oesophagus which is the connecting passage between the mouth and the stomach.
- Cutaneous (skin) candidiasis - Candida can cause infections in areas of skin that are moist and receive insufficient ventilation. Some common sites include the nappy/diaper area ("nappy rash" or candidal dermatitis) in babies; the webs of fingers and toes; the groin and the crease of the buttocks; the skin under large breasts; and the fingernail beds.
- Vaginal yeast infection or candida vaginitis - Yeast infection of the vaginal area is common. If the infection is also present at the vulva (the area around the entrance to the vagina), the condition is known as vulvovaginal candidiasis. The infection commonly occurs as a result of selfcontamination with yeast organisms from the rectal passage. Sexual transmission is possible but unusual. Vaginal candida infections are not usually transmitted sexually. They are often included among the sexually transmitted diseases because they may occur with other types of reproductive system infections.
- Balanitis - A less common but equally irritating infection at the glans of the penis and beneath the foreskin.
- Systemic candidiasis - A condition which only affects people with compromised immune systems, for example, those who are HIV-positive, have cancer or are on immune suppressive drugs after organ transplantation. Candida fungi contaminate the bloodstream and spread throughout the body, causing severe infection. Typical organs that can be affected include the brain, eye, liver and heart.
Causes of Candida
Candidiasis is caused by overgrowth of the candida fungi that can occur in the body. Candida fungi usually live harmlessly along with the "friendly" species of bacteria that normally colonise the mouth and gastrointestinal and urogenital tracts.
In a healthy person, the growth of candida is kept in check by a properly functioning immune system and the presence of the friendly bacteria.
However, certain internal and external factors can change the normal environment and trigger an overgrowth of the yeast. Candida fungi can multiply out of control if the numbers of friendly bacteria are reduced, the immune system is weakened, or other conditions for yeast proliferation occur.
When fungal growth at a certain body site exceeds the body's ability to control it, yeast infection develops.The fungi related to Candida are ever present in the body, but they multiply uncontrollably under certain circumstances like- lowered resistance power to infection caused as a result of bigger diseases like HIV or Cancer, high blood sugar, radiation, aging, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection; surgical causes, when introduced into the body through I.V. or urinary catheter use, drug abuse and hyperalimentation.
Other common reasons for Candida infection result from - excessive use of antibiotics, if genetically passed on from mother to infant, the increased use of I.V. therapy, especially for patients, with HIV infection.
Risk Factors of Candida
Risk factors for Candidiasis are factors that do not seem to be a direct cause of the disease, but seem to be associated in some way. Having a risk factor for Candidiasis makes the chances of getting a condition higher but does not always lead to Candidiasis. Also, the absence of any risk factors or having a protective factor does not necessarily guard you against getting Candidiasis.
The following are factors that can predispose you to candida overgrowth:
- Antibiotics can reduce the number of friendly intestinal bacteria which normally help to keep candida under control.
- Medications such as steroid hormones, immunosuppressant and anti-inflammatory drugs, chemotherapy drugs and ulcer medications or acid blockers used for prolonged periods.
- Immune deficiency. Diseases such as AIDS and cancer can weaken the immune system. The immune system can also become weaker in the elderly.
- Diabetics are prone to yeast infections, especially when their blood sugar levels are not well controlled. High levels of sugar in the blood and urine, and a low resistance to infection are conditions that encourage yeast growth.
- Certain genetic disorders, such as celiac disease (which involves intestinal malabsorption) or haemochromatosis (in which iron accumulates in body tissue).
- Hormonal imbalance, as a result of menstruation, pregnancy, diabetes or birth control pills (usually in the first three months of taking them) or thyroid disease.
- During their lifetimes, about 75 percent of all women are likely to have at least one vaginal candida infection before they reach menopause, and up to 45 percent will have two or more. Women tend to be more susceptible to vaginal yeast infections if they are under stress, have an inadequate diet, have lack of sleep or are ill. Although it is not classified as a sexually transmitted disease, yeast infections are common among younger women (ages 20 to 40), especially after becoming sexually active.
- If a woman has a vaginal yeast infection when she gives birth, the baby may get yeast (thrush) in its throat or digestive tract.
- When the balance between commensal (friendly) and pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria in the normal intestinal flora is disturbed, for example due to excessive alcohol consumption and certain chemicals.
- A moist, warm environment. Yeast infections often develop where a moist, warm environment encourages fungal growth. Prime areas include the webs of fingers and toes, nails, genitals and folds of skin. This is particularly the case in diabetics.
- Tight clothing, especially underwear, that promotes moisture build-up.
- Being obese (over 20 percent overweight).
- Thrush is a common minor infection in babies and young children.
- People whose work requires that they spend long periods of time with their hands in water, or who wear rubber gloves, are predisposed to cutaneous candidiasis.
- Candida in the male genital area (balanitis) has been found to be more common in uncircumcised males or diabetics, and can sometimes result from intercourse with an infected partner.
- In rare cases, the candida fungus may invade the body at certain sites: intravenous (IV) tube, urinary catheter, tracheostomy, ventilation tubing or surgical wounds. If the infection spreads through the bloodstream to the kidneys, lungs, brain or other organs, it can cause serious systemic complications. These develop only in people who are seriously ill or who have other health problems that weaken the immune system.
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