Candidiasis is an infection caused by a yeastlike fungus called candida. It can infect the mouth, vagina, skin, stomach, and urinary tract. Approximately 75 percent of women will get candidiasis of the vagina during their lifetime, and 90 percent of all people with HIV/AIDS develop candida infections.
Signs and Symptoms
- Creamy white patches in the mouth or on the throat
- Painful cracks at the corners of the mouth
- Skin rashes, patches, and blisters found most commonly in the groin, between fingers and toes, and under the breasts
- Vaginal itching and irritation with a curdlike discharge
What Causes It?Normal amounts of candida existing in the mouth, stomach, and vagina do not cause infections. Candidiasis occurs when there is a buildup of candida. This may be caused by taking certain drugs (especially antibiotics), pregnancy, being overweight, bacterial infection, or any of a number of health conditions (for example, immune disorders, diabetes, and psoriasis).
What to Expect at Your Provider's OfficeYour health care provider may take samples for testing (for example, a vaginal wet smear) and do extensive tests (such as a CT scan or test of your stool) if it appears that the infection has spread. An antifungal medication may be prescribed, and dietary changes may be recommended. These treatments usually cure candidiasis. If you have recurrent bouts of candidiasis, your provider will explore the possibility of an immune deficiency or some other disease.
Treatment OptionsDrug Therapies
A number of antifungal medications are available to treat candidiasis. Your health care provider will prescribe a drug depending on the location and severity of your disease.
- Antifungal medications—include oral rinses and tablets, vaginal tablets and suppositories, and creams; various side effects
- Antibiotics—cure certain types of candida
- Topical vaginal creams and suppositories
- Creams combined with low-strength corticosteroids—reduce inflammation and itching
Some topical vaginal creams and suppositories are available over the counter and may be used for 1 to 7 days; see your provider if the condition persists.
Complementary and Alternative TherapiesThe "candida diet" allows no alcohol, no simple sugars, and very limited amounts of refined foods. Alternative therapies aim to "starve" the yeast and use natural antifungals.
- Vitamin C (500 to 1,000 mg per day), vitamin E (200 to 400 IU per day), and selenium (200 mcg per day) are anti-inflammatory
- Essential fatty acids: anti-inflammatory, a mix of omega-6 (evening primrose) and omega-3 (flaxseed) may be best (2 tbsp. oil per day or 1,000 to 1,500 mg twice a day). Reduce animal fats in your diet and increase fish and nuts
- B-complex: B1 (50 to 100 mg), B2 (50 mg), B3 (25 mg), B5 (100 mg), B6 (50 to 100 mg), B12 (100 to 1,000 mcg), folate (400 mcg per day)
- Calcium (1,000 to 1,500 mg per day) to correct deficiency often found in people with yeast infections, and magnesium (750 to 1,000 mg per day) to balance calcium intake
- Lactobacillus acidophilus (2 to 5 million organisms three times per day) to help restore normal balance of bowel and mucous membranes
- Caprylic acid (1 g with meals) is an antifungal fatty acid
- Avoid simple carbohydrates including fruit juice, yeast, and fermented foods; limit fruit to one serving per day, increase garlic (fungicidal), nuts (essential fatty acids), whole grains (B vitamins), oregano, cinnamon, sage, and cloves (antifungal spices)
HerbsHerbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.
- Pau d'arco bark (Tabebuia avellanedae): antifungal, best used as a tea (2 tbsp. boiled in 1 quart of water; 3 to 6 cups per day), or use the cooled tea as a vaginal douche
- Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Oregon grape root (Mahonia nervosa), and barberry (Berberis vulgaris) are digestive and immune stimulants. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) are anti-inflammatory. Use a tea or tincture of the five herbs listed above (1 cup tea three times per day or 30 to 60 drops tincture three times per day) for six weeks. Do not take licorice if you have high blood pressure
- Topical treatments include tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) or lavender essential oil (Lavandula species) two to three times a day; apply full strength to skin infections (discontinue if skin irritation develops); marigold (Calendula officinalis) apply three to five times per day in a salve for rashes
- Fireweed (Epilobium parviflorum): take as a tea for oral, vaginal, and intestinal candidias
HomeopathySome of the most common remedies used for candidiasis are listed below. Usually, the dose is 3 to 5 pellets of a 12X to 30C remedy every one to four hours until your symptoms get better.
- Borax for bleeding oral mucosa, especially with diarrhea
- Belladonna for bright red, inflamed skin that is not raw or oozing, but is painful, especially with irritability
- Chamomilla for "diaper" rash, especially with irritability
- Arsenicum album for burning, itching rashes, especially with anxiety
- Graphites for thick, cracked skin (corners of mouth or heels)
- Kreosotum for leukorrhea that causes itching and swelling
Following UpYou can prevent another yeast infection by taking lactobacillus acidophilus when you take antibiotics, avoiding antibiotics that act against a wide variety of bacteria when possible, wearing cotton or silk underwear, maintaining good hygiene, and staying at the proper weight. Women should avoid douches (except when medically necessary), vaginal deodorants, and bubble baths.
Special ConsiderationsBe sure to tell your health care provider if you are pregnant.
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