Candidiasis is a fungal infection in the body. There are many species of Candida, but the most common species that causes infection is called Candida albicans.
Candida albicans occurs normally in small amounts in the body. An overgrowth of the fungus, Candida albicans is what causes candidiasis. Candidiasis can affect many parts of the body including the mouth, throat, oesophagus (food pipe) and the genitourinary tract (vagina, bladder or penis).
It is extremely common amongst people from all walks of life.
A vaginal infection with Candida albicans is sometimes referred to as “thrush” or a “yeast infection”
It is very common: 3 out of every 4 women will have this infection at least once (if not more) in their lifetime! It is normal to have some Candida present in the vaginal canal, however an overgrowth of Candida can cause a symptomatic yeast infection.
So how does the infection occur?
The normal vaginal canal requires a very carefully regulated pH and the presence of healthy bacteria. The presence of “good” bacteria helps to keep the growth of Candida under control. Many factors can cause the Candida to “overgrow” and cause an infection. These factors include antibiotics, stress, fragranced toiletries and steroid use amongst many others. Many woman “douche” the vagina, and this can contribute to thrush. As it removes the healthy bacteria from the vagina and changes the pH within the vagina.
What are the symptoms?
Thrush can cause itching of the vulva, vaginal discharge (thick white discharge – “cottage cheese”), burning/pain on urination and burning/pain during sex.
What are the treatment options?
Some treatments are available over-the-counter (without prescription). These are usually vaginal creams and tablets which are placed into the vagina. Your doctor may also prescribe a tablet (usually Fluconazole) which is an “anti-fungal” and works against the Candida albicans.
Candida can also affect the penis. It usually affects the head of the penis, and causes redness, burning/pain during urination/sex, and a rash. It can occur because of an overgrowth of bacteria or from direct contact with a partner with a thrush infection. It can be treated in the same way (creams which are applied or with tablets to drink).
What can be done to prevent Candida infection?
Avoid using perfumed and fragranced soaps in and around the genitals. Avoid vaginal douche: this does not help clean out the infection, it only makes it worse. Your doctor can suggest a probiotic to use to help replace the “good bacteria” in the vagina. Use condoms to prevent the spread of infection and partner re-infection.
IMPORTANT: Although thrush can be spread via sex, it is NOT a sexually transmitted infection. Meaning, that it can occur without sexual intercourse.
Although thrush can be treated with over-the-counter medications, it is advised that you consult your doctor so that they can make sure it is not another type of infection/illness.