Candidiasis, commonly known as a yeast infection, is a fungal infection caused by the Candida species, with Candida albicans being the most prevalent culprit. This opportunistic pathogen typically resides harmlessly in the gastrointestinal tract, oral cavity, and female genital tract. However, when the body’s defenses are compromised, Candida can proliferate and trigger an infection.
The manifestations of candidiasis vary depending on the affected site. Oral candidiasis, or thrush, presents as white patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, and throat, often accompanied by discomfort and difficulty swallowing. Vaginal candidiasis results in itching, burning, and abnormal vaginal discharge. Cutaneous candidiasis affects the skin, typically in areas of skin folds, leading to red, itchy rashes.
In severe cases, systemic candidiasis can occur, spreading to vital organs and giving rise to potentially life-threatening complications. Symptoms of systemic candidiasis may include fever, chills, sepsis, and dysfunction of affected organs. Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy, are particularly vulnerable to developing systemic candidiasis.
The diagnosis of candidiasis involves a combination of clinical assessment, microscopic examination, and laboratory tests. Treatment usually includes antifungal medications, such as azoles or polyenes, either in topical or oral form, depending on the severity and location of the infection. Preventive measures, such as maintaining good personal hygiene, practicing safe sex, and avoiding unnecessary antibiotic use, can help reduce the risk of candidiasis.