Candida infections are caused by the Candida albicans yeast species. Other Candida species may be involved, but this is the most common. It is found naturally in our mouth, gastrointestinal tract and vagina and is normally kept in check by the native bacteria that reside on our body as well as by our natural immune response. However if this natural balance mechanism is lost – for example through antibiotics or biochemical changes – result rapid yeast growth and a Candida infection can result.
The four main types of Candida most commonly seen include:
- Oral thrush, where the moist surfaces of the inside of the mouth and tongue are affected. The main sign is a whitish patch developing often with a red, inflamed base.
- Skin candida infections can occur in parts of the body that receive little air-flow and remain damp for long periods. The diaper area in babies for example, or skin folds and creases can be affected.
- Vaginal yeast infections are one of the most common types of Candida infection seen in women. It is thought that three quarters of all women are likely to have at least one case of infection. The key symptom is an intense, often unbearable itching, biting or burning sensation.
- Male yeast infections are less common, particularly in uncircumcised men. A red, irritated rash develops on the penis and it can be painful to pass urine.
The main approaches to treatment are outlined below:
- Oral thrush is generally treated using topical antifungal medication. Your doctor may also prescribe a liquid version of an antifungal drugs that can be used to rinse out the mouth. For very severe cases, oral antifungal drugs may be necessary.
- Skin candida infections can usually be effectively treated using antifungal powders, creams and gels. It’s important to keep the affected areas clean and dry at all times.
- Vaginal yeast infections are typically treated using topical antifungal creams that are applied directly to the vulva and inserted into the vagina using pre-filled suppositories or ‘ovules’. Male yeast infections also respond well to this kind of topical therapy. You’ll find reference to drugs such as Monistat and Gyne Lotrimin as recommended approaches to get rid of yeast infections in both men and women.