Candidiasis, commonly called yeast infection or thrush, is a fungal infection of any of the Candida species, of which Candida albicans is probably the most common. This can happen to any part of the human body.
In immunocompetent people, candidiasis can usually only be found in exposed and moist parts of the body. This would include the oral cavity (oral thrush), the vagina (vaginal candidiasis or thrush), diaper rash and folds of skin. Candidiasis is perhaps best known as the most common cause of vaginal irritation or vaginitis.
At least three quarters of all women will experience candidiasis at some point in their lives. The Candida albicans organism is found in the vaginas of almost all women and normally causes no problems, however when it gets out of balance with the other "normal flora" an infection can result. Pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives and some antibiotics, and diabetes mellitus increase the risk of infection.
The most common symptoms are itching and irritation of the vagina and/or vulva. A whitish or whitish-gray discharge may be present, sometimes resembling cottage cheese, and may have a "yeasty" smell like beer or baking bread.
In immunocompromised patients, the candida infection can become systemic, causing much more serious disease.
Candidiasis should be treated with antifungal medication. If indicated, an underlying reason should be looked for. As an example, oral candidiasis is often linked to the use of inhaled steroids in asthma medication. Patients on long term inhaled steroids should be taught to rinse their mouth after each dose of steroids. Parents with babies with diaper rash should be taught to keep their baby's dry to keep the fungal growth down.
Following the health tips at vulvovaginal health can help prevent vaginal candidiasis.