Candida is caused by the overgrowth of a type of yeast called Candida, usually Candida albicans. This yeast is normally found in small amounts in the human body.
But certain medicines and health problems can cause more yeast to grow, particularly in warm, moist body areas. This can cause uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous symptoms.
There are several types of candidiasis:
- If it is in the mouth or throat, it is called oral candidiasis, oropharyngeal candidiasis, or thrush.
- If it affects the genital area, it is called a yeast infection. In women, it may be called a vulvovaginal yeast infection.
- If yeast infects the skin on a baby’s bottom area, it causes a diaper rash.
- If the infection enters your bloodstream, it is called invasive candidiasis or candidemia.
Causes of Candida
- Antibiotics can reduce the number of friendly intestinal bacteria which normally help to keep candida under control.
- Medications such as steroid hormones, immunosuppressant and anti-inflammatory drugs, chemotherapy drugs and ulcer medications or acid blockers used for prolonged periods.
- Immune deficiency. Diseases such as AIDS and cancer can weaken the immune system. The immune system can also become weaker in the elderly.
- Diabetics are prone to yeast infections, especially when their blood sugar levels are not well controlled. High levels of sugar in the blood and urine, and a low resistance to infection are conditions that encourage yeast growth.
- Certain genetic disorders, such as celiac disease (which involves intestinal malabsorption) or haemochromatosis (in which iron accumulates in body tissue).
- Hormonal imbalance, as a result of menstruation, pregnancy, diabetes or birth control pills (usually in the first three months of taking them) or thyroid disease.
- During their lifetimes, about 75 percent of all women are likely to have at least one vaginal candida infection before they reach menopause, and up to 45 percent will have two or more. Women tend to be more susceptible to vaginal yeast infections if they are under stress, have an inadequate diet, have lack of sleep or are ill. Although it is not classified as a sexually transmitted disease, yeast infections are common among younger women (ages 20 to 40), especially after becoming sexually active.
- If a woman has a vaginal yeast infection when she gives birth, the baby may get yeast (thrush) in its throat or digestive tract.
- When the balance between commensal (friendly) and pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria in the normal intestinal flora is disturbed, for example due to excessive alcohol consumption and certain chemicals.
- A moist, warm environment. Yeast infections often develop where a moist, warm environment encourages fungal growth. Prime areas include the webs of fingers and toes, nails, genitals and folds of skin. This is particularly the case in diabetics.
- Tight clothing, especially underwear, that promotes moisture build-up.
- Being obese (over 20 percent overweight).
- Thrush is a common minor infection in babies and young children.
- People whose work requires that they spend long periods of time with their hands in water, or who wear rubber gloves, are predisposed to cutaneous candidiasis.
- Candida in the male genital area (balanitis) has been found to be more common in uncircumcised males or diabetics, and can sometimes result from intercourse with an infected partner.
- In rare cases, the candida fungus may invade the body at certain sites: intravenous (IV) tube, urinary catheter, tracheostomy, ventilation tubing or surgical wounds. If the infection spreads through the bloodstream to the kidneys, lungs, brain or other organs, it can cause serious systemic complications. These develop only in people who are seriously ill or who have other health problems that weaken the immune system.