What is Candida?
There are a number of different kinds of fungi existing and residing in our bodies at any given time, one of these kinds of fungus is known as Candida. This is a kind of yeast that typically exists in small amounts and is found in places like the stomach, skin and mouth and does not cause any issues. However, in some cases, if the environment allows for it, this fungus is able to grow and multiply at a rapid pace, resulting in a fungal infection known as candidiasis, pronounced “kan-di-dahy-uh-sis”.
There are a number of different types of this fungal infection, most of these can be treated with OTC (over-the-counter) or prescription forms of treatment, however, in the case of more severe candidiasis, the treatment and diagnosis is far more complex and intricate, as are the severity of the symptoms the patient experiences.
In its natural state, Candida is a fungus that aids in the absorption of nutrients and digestion if it is found in the right levels in the body. When there is an over production of the fungus, this results in candidiasis.
When this happens in the intestinal tract, it is able to break down the intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream, this is known as systemic candidiasis. When Candida multiplies unchecked resulting in overgrowth, this is referred to as Candida Overgrowth Syndrome (COS), otherwise known as invasive candidiasis.
To explain candidiasis further and in more detail, it is a fungal infection that is caused by the yeasts that are from the genus (family or group) of the fungi Candida. With more than 20 different species of this genus, Candida yeasts are able to cause infections in humans, with the most common one being Candida albicans.
As stated, these yeasts typically reside in one’s mucous membranes on the skin and in the gastrointestinal tract. When the fungus lives in these places, it does not normally result in infection. It is only when Candida multiplies and grows more than it should, this results in infection (candidiasis) with symptoms varying depending on the part of the body that has been infected.
When candidiasis forms in the mouth, this is known as oropharyngeal candidiasis, or more commonly “oral thrush”. This is often seen in those whose immune system function is reduced or in those who have been taking specific antibiotics.
If candidiasis develops in a woman’s vagina, this is known as a vaginal yeast infection, which is a common infection in women.
If candidiasis becomes systemic, meaning that it enters the blood stream and in doing so, spreads throughout the body, this is known as invasive candidiasis.
Recently, patients’ susceptibility to candidiasis has been increased due to the overuse of antibiotics, rising AIDS infections, the use of catheters, endoscopes and other invasive devices and the increase in organ transplants. In cases where candidiasis develops as a result of surgery, the instruments used in these procedures may form the point of entry for Candida to enter the blood stream (as it resides on the skin or the instrument is infected) and cause an infection in those suffering from immunosuppression.
What are the different types of Candida?
The three main types of candidiasis are: