There are many kinds of fungi that live in the human body. One type is called candida. It’s a type of yeast that normally lives in small amounts in places such as your mouth, belly, or on your skin. Usually, it doesn't cause any problems. But when the environment is right, the yeast can multiply and grow out of control.
Candida is the most common fungus that infects people. But there are different types, or species, of candida. Candida species are closely related to each other but not the same.
The full list of candida species that can infect people is long. But nine times out of ten, if you have candidiasis, it will be caused by one of these five species:
- Candida albicans
- Candida glabrata
- Candida tropicalis
- Candida parapsilosis
- Candida krusei
Candida albicans causes more than half of all candida infections. But infections with other species are on the rise. They also can be harder for doctors to treat. On top of these five, experts are also keeping an eye on Candida auris, which is a growing health threat.
Your body normally hosts a natural population of candida. But when it grows too much and turns into a fungal infection, you may notice symptoms of candidiasis, including:
- Itchy red skin or rash
- White patches that feel lumpy
- Pain or soreness
You’ll notice these symptoms in the infected part of your body. Your symptoms also may vary depending upon where the candida is growing and what type of infection it is.
Candidiasis happens when the fungus that normally grows in or on your body starts growing too much. It’s most likely when you have an imbalance of bacteria or other microbes. Causes of an imbalance leading to candidiasis may include:
- Diabetes that’s not treated or poorly controlled
- A weak or suppressed immune system
- A diet with too many simple or refined carbohydrates, yeast, or sugar
- Taking certain medicines, including antibiotics, steroids, hormones, or birth control pills
Types of Candidiasis
Doctors identify different types of candidiasis depending on where the fungal infection is growing. These include:
- Vaginal candidiasis or vaginitis in your vagina
- Cutaneous candidiasis on your skin, including your armpits, under your breasts, or around your groin or diaper area
- Oral candidiasis or thrush in your mouth, throat, tongue, or esophagus
- Invasive or systemic candidiasis in your bloodstream and throughout your body
- Nail candidiasis at the bottom or edges of your fingernails or toenails.
In rare cases, candida can cause Candidagranuloma, a chronic infection, in different parts of the body, including your face, mouth, scalp, and nails.
If the candida yeast spreads to your mouth and throat, it can cause an infection called oral candidiasis, or oralthrush. It’s most common in newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. You may be more likely to get it if you:
- Are being treated for cancer
- Take medications such as corticosteroids and wide-spectrum antibiotics
- Wear dentures
- Have diabetes
Symptoms of oral thrush include:
- White or yellow patches on your tongue, lips, gums, roof of your mouth, and inner cheeks
- Redness or soreness in your mouth and throat
- Cracking at the corners of your mouth
- Pain when swallowing, if it spreads to your throat
Thrush is treated with antifungal medicines such as clotrimazole, fluconazole , and nystatin . Rinsing your mouth with chlorhexidine (CHX) mouthwash may help prevent infections if you have a weakened immune system.
Three out of four people with vaginas will get at least one genital yeast infection during their lifetime. This happens when too much yeast grows in the vagina. (Men and those assigned male at birth can also get genital yeast infections, but it's much less common.)
A yeast infection typically happens when the balance in the vagina changes. This can be caused by:
Occasionally, the infection can be passed from person to person during sex.
The symptoms include:
- Extreme itchiness in the vagina
- Redness and swelling of the vagina and vulva (the outer part of the female genitals)
- Pain and burning when you pee
- Discomfort during sex
- A thick, white "cottage cheese" discharge from the vagina
Because these symptoms can be similar to other infections such as bacterial vaginosis (bacterial overgrowth in the vagina) and sexually transmitted diseases, it’s important to visit your doctor if you're experiencing them.
Most times, an over-the-counter antifungal suppository, tablet, or cream will knock out the infection. Your doctor might also prescribe a single dose of a prescription antifungal medicine such as fluconazole. Tell your doctor if you get yeast infections more than four times a year. They may recommend regular doses of antifungal medication over several months to fight the repeated infections.
Candidiasis in men
Candida can infect male genitals, too. That shouldn’t be too surprising as the fungus that causes it is normally present on your skin. But men are more likely to get candidiasis on the head of their penis if they have sex with a partner with vaginal candidiasis.
Candidiasis of your penis is also more likely if you:
- Aren’t circumcised
- Take antibiotics often
- Have diabetes
- Have a weakened immune system
- Are overweight
- Don’t wash regularly
- Moist skin on your penis
- A white substance in your skin folds
- White or shiny skin
- Redness, itching, or burning
"Cutaneous" means affecting the skin. So, any type of candidiasis on the surface of your skin falls into this type. Candidiasis infections most likely occur in places that are warm and moist, including:
- Your armpits
- Your groin
- Your belly button
- Under your breasts
- The spaces between your fingers and toes
- Your genitals
- Any skin folds on your stomach
Conditions that make cutaneous candidiasis more likely include:
- Hot or humid weather
- Wearing tight or synthetic underwear or clothing
- Not washing enough
- Not changing underwear or diapers often enough
- Having a weak immune system
- Being overweight
- Taking antibiotics or other medicines
- Having other skin conditions, such as psoriasis
You can treat candidiasis on your skin by keeping the area as dry as you can. You also can use antifungal creams. Ask your doctor which is best depending on where your infection is. If you’re otherwise healthy, your candidiasis should go away easily. You can also take steps to make your infection less likely to happen again.
Diaper Rash from Yeast Infection
Though diaper rash is usually caused by leaving a wet or soiled diaper on for too long, once your baby’s skin is irritated, infection is more likely. If their diaper rash isn’t going away, check if their bottom is red and sensitive, and if there’s a raised red border around the sores. If so, have your pediatrician check for candidiasis. It can be treated with an antifungal cream.
Keeping your baby’s bottom clean and dry is a good start to help prevent diaper rash and candidiasis.
If candida enters your bloodstream (usually through medical equipment or devices), it can travel to your heart, brain, blood, eyes, and bones. This can cause a serious, life-threatening infection called invasive candidiasis.
People who have recently been admitted to a hospital or live in a health care facility, such as a nursing home, are most at risk. Like other types of yeast infections, your chances of getting invasive candidiasis are greater if you have diabetes, a weakened immune system, kidney failure, or are on antibiotics .
The symptoms include fever and chills. It can be hard to diagnose because it's likely that a person with this infection is already sick with another condition.
Invasive candidiasis is treated with an oral or intravenous dose of antifungal medication. If you are having surgery and have higher odds of a yeast infection, your doctor might prescribe a series of antifungal medicines before the procedure.
If your doctor suspects you may have invasive candidiasis, they’ll take a blood sample. They may send your sample off to a lab where others will see if they can grow candida from your samples. This was the most common way to look for invasive candidiasis in the past.
Your doctor may also use other blood tests to look for signs of candida in your blood without waiting to see if the fungus will grow in the lab. Ask your doctor which test they’ll use to see if your symptoms are caused by invasive candidiasis.
Candidiasis is a common condition; nearly 75% of people with a vagina will experience a vaginal yeast infection caused by candida in their lifetime. Most candidiasis infections can be easily treated with over-the-counter medications or a prescription, but if you get more than four fungal infections a year, talk with your doctor. They will develop a treatment plan to help prevent that type of yeast from growing too much on or in your body. Candidiasis won't go away on its own, so treat it as soon as possible.
How does candida go away?
You may use an antifungal medicine to get rid of it. You can get antifungal medicine in different forms, including pills or liquids you take by mouth or topical creams or ointments you put on your skin. The best option for you will depend on what type of candidiasis you have and how severe it is. Make sure you treat it as long as your doctor recommends even if your symptoms seem to go away sooner.
Is candidiasis an STD?
No. Candidiasis yeast infections aren’t sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Everyone has candida growing naturally on their bodies. They turn into an infection when the fungus starts to grow too much. But it is possible for you to pass candidaon to a partner during sex.
Can candidiasis go away on its own?
Probably not. If you don’t treat a candida infection, it’s more likely that any itching, discomfort, or other symptoms you have will get worse as the fungus keeps growing. Invasive candidiasis is a serious and even life-threatening infection. If you have this type, you’ll need treatment right away in the hospital until it goes away.