Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by a yeast (a type of fungus) called Candida. Some species of Candida can cause infection in people; the most common is Candida albicans. Candida normally lives on the skin and inside the body, in places such as the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina, without causing any problems. Candida can cause infections if it grows out of control or if it enters deep into the body (for example, the bloodstream or internal organs like the kidney, heart, or brain). Some types of Candida are resistant to the antifungals used to treat them.
Candida albicans specialist, the candidiasis that develops in the mouth or throat is called thrush or oropharyngeal candidiasis. Candidiasis in the vagina is commonly referred to as a yeast infection. Invasive candidiasis occurs when Candida species enter the bloodstream or affect internal organs like the kidney, heart, or brain. Click the links below for more information on the different types of Candida infections.
Candidiasis is an infection caused by a yeast (a type of fungus) called Candida. Candida normally lives inside the body (in places such as the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina) and on skin without causing any problems. Sometimes Candida can multiply and cause an infection if the environment inside the vagina changes in a way that encourages its growth. Candidiasis in the vagina is commonly called a “vaginal yeast infection.” Other names for this infection are “vaginal candidiasis,” “vulvovaginal candidiasis,” or “candidal vaginitis.”
The symptoms of vaginal candidiasis include:1,2
Vaginal itching or soreness
Pain during sexual intercourse
Pain or discomfort when urinating
Abnormal vaginal discharge
Although most vaginal candidiasis is mild, some women can develop severe infections involving redness, swelling, and cracks in the wall of the vagina.
Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms. These symptoms are similar to those of other types of vaginal infections, which are treated with different types of medicines. A healthcare provider can tell you if you have vaginal candidiasis and how to treat it.
Who gets vaginal candidiasis?
Vaginal candidiasis is common, though more research is needed to understand how many women are affected. Women who are more likely to get vaginal candidiasis include those who:
Use hormonal contraceptives (for example, birth control pills)
Have a weakened immune system (for example, due to HIV infection or medicines that weaken the immune system, such as steroids and chemotherapy)
Are taking or have recently taken antibiotics
Wearing cotton underwear might help reduce the chances of getting a yeast infection.2 Because taking antibiotics can lead to vaginal candidiasis, take these medicines only when prescribed and exactly as your healthcare provider tells you. Learn more about when antibiotics work and when they should be avoided.
Scientists estimate that about 20% of women normally have Candida in the vagina without having any symptoms.2 Sometimes, Candida can multiply and cause an infection if the environment inside the vagina changes in a way that encourages its growth. This can happen because of hormones, medicines, or changes in the immune system.
Healthcare providers usually diagnose vaginal candidiasis by taking a small sample of vaginal discharge to be examined under a microscope in the medical office or sent to a laboratory for a fungal culture. However, a positive fungal culture does not always mean that Candida is causing symptoms because some women can have Candida in the vagina without having any symptoms.
Vaginal candidiasis is usually treated with antifungal medicine.3 For most infections, the treatment is an antifungal medicine applied inside the vagina or a single dose of fluconazole taken by mouth. Other treatments may be needed for infections that are more severe, that don’t get better, or that keep coming back after getting better. These treatments include more doses of fluconazole taken by mouth or other medicines applied inside the vagina, such as boric acid, nystatin, or flucytosine.