Candidiasis is an infection caused by a yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans. It can infect the mouth, vagina, skin, stomach, and urinary tract. About 75% of women will get a vaginal yeast infection during their lifetime, and 90% of all people with HIV/AIDS develop Candida infections. Oral infections, called oral thrush, are most common in infants, elderly people, and those with a weakened immune system.
Symptoms of candidiasis may include:
Normal amounts of Candida live in the mouth, stomach, and vagina, and do not cause infections. Candidiasis occurs when there is an overgrowth of Candida. Causes may include taking certain drugs (especially antibiotics, corticosteroids, and some birth control pills), pregnancy, being overweight, having a bacterial infection, or several different health conditions (for example, a weakened immune system, diabetes, and psoriasis).
Many women know when they have a vaginal yeast infection, but if you are not sure, or if you have never had one before, you should visit your doctor. Your doctor may take samples for testing (for example, a vaginal wet smear) and do other tests, such as a CT scan or test of your stool if your doctor suspects the infection has spread.
Your doctor may prescribe antifungal medication and recommend that you change your diet. These treatments usually cure the infection. If you have many bouts of candidiasis, your doctor may test you for an immune deficiency or some other disease.
Many antifungal medications can treat candidiasis. Your doctor will prescribe a drug depending on your condition.
Antifungal medications. These include oral rinses and tablets, vaginal tablets and suppositories, and creams. For vaginal yeast infections, medications that are available over the counter include creams and suppositories, such as miconazole (Monistat), ticonazole (Vagistat), and clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin). Your doctor may prescribe a pill, fluconazole (Diflucan). Side effects vary.
Creams combined with low-strength corticosteroids reduce inflammation and itching.
Most treatments last from 2 to 3 days to 2 weeks. Be sure to take all medicine exactly as prescribed. If you do not, the same infection could come back, or you could become infected with a new strain of Candida.
For severe candidiasis that could be life threatening to someone with a weak immune system, your doctor may prescribe an intravenous (IV) medication, amphotericin B.
Some studies suggest that reducing sugar in the diet may help prevent yeast infections. Other foods that some practitioners believe may contribute to candidiasis include dairy products and foods with high concentrations of yeast (cheese, peanuts, alcohol).
The "Candida diet" allows no alcohol, no simple sugars, no yeast, and very limited amounts of processed foods. It is not clear whether the diet actually gets rid of Candida or helps people feel better because it is a healthful diet.
Alternative therapies use natural antifungals or probiotics ("friendly" bacteria), as well as immune-strengthening therapies, to improve the body's ability to keep Candida in check. There is conflicting evidence about whether eating yogurt with live probiotic cultures every day can help prevent yeast infections, but it certainly does not hurt. Adding more garlic (fungicidal), nuts (essential fatty acids), whole grains (B vitamins), oregano, cinnamon, sage, and cloves (antifungal spices) to your diet may help avoid a yeast infection.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.
Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider remedies based on their knowledge and experience for treating candidiasis. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual. Some of the most common remedies used for candidiasis include:
You may help prevent another yeast infection by taking Lactobacillus acidophilus when you take antibiotics, wearing cotton underwear, maintaining good hygiene, and staying at the proper weight. Women should avoid douches, except when medically necessary, and vaginal deodorant.
Be sure to tell your health care provider if you are pregnant.
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Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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