Candida is a strain of fungus that can cause
an infection in your skin, among other locations. In normal conditions, your
skin may host small amounts of this fungus, but problems arise when it begins
to multiply and creates an overgrowth. More than 150 species of candida exist,
but the majority of infections are caused by a species called Candida albicans.
The outlook for Candida infection is often
very good. Generally, the condition isn’t serious and can be easily treated.
However, uncontrolled infections can lead to potentially life-threatening
problems — especially in those with weakened immune systems. Quick treatment
can help stop the spread of the fungus, while also improving (and potentially
saving) your life.
What Are the Causes and Risk Factors?
Candida skin infections can occur on almost
any area of the body, but they are more commonly found in intertriginous
regions, where two skin areas may touch or rub together. Such areas include the
armpits, groin, and skin folds, as well as the area between your fingers and
toes. The fungus thrives in warm, moist, and sweaty conditions.
Normally, your skin acts as an effective
barrier against infection, but any cuts or breakdown in the superficial layers
of the skin may allow the fungus to cause infection. Candida becomes pathogenic
(capable of causing disease) when conditions are favorable for it to multiply.
These conditions may be produced by hot and humid weather, lack of hygiene, or
These aren’t the only risk factors to
consider. Candida infections also tend to be more prevalent in:
- people who are overweight
- people with diabetes
- cases of iron or zinc deficiency
- people who have recently
undergone antibiotic therapy
- people with underactive thyroid
- people with inflammatory
- people with immunodeficiency
- people working in wet conditions
- pregnant women
Certain medications may also increase the
risk for this type of fungal infection. Corticosteroids are the most
problematic, but birth control pills and antibiotics are other possible causes.
If you take these types of medications, you should monitor your skin regularly
for signs of Candida infections.
Recognizing the Symptoms of an Infection
Symptoms vary depending on body location, but
include the following:
- rashes (area of reddening,
- red or purple patches (area with
an altered surface)
- white substance over affected
- scaling (shedding of the skin
- cracking (cracks in the skin)
- erythema (area of redness)
- maceration (appearance of soft
- creamy satellite pustules at
margins of affected areas (pimples filled with pus)
- red and white lesions in your
mouth (called oral thrush)
Diagnosing and Treatment
Diagnosis of Candida infections primarily
relies on appearance and skin sampling. Your doctor will take skin scrapings,
nail clippings, or plucked hair from the affected area and mount them on a
slide for examination. Once a Candida infection is diagnosed, the first step is
to address the underlying cause. This may include changing your lifestyle to
become more hygienic, losing weight if you are overweight, or managing your
Treatment for Candida skin infections is
usually simple. You don’t need to be hospitalized unless you have problems with
your immunity. Your doctor may prescribe drying agents or antifungal creams, ointments,
or lotions to be applied to your skin.
You will most probably be prescribed
over-the-counter drugs, such as ketoconazole or clotrimazole, both of which are
from a class of antifungal drugs known as azoles. They don’t have serious side
effects as compared to other antifungal agents like nystatin or amphotericin B.
The infection should clear in about seven to 10 days.
If the infection persists or becomes more
severe, your doctor may include some systemic antifungal medications (oral or
injectable) in your therapy.
Tips to Prevent Candida Infections
There are simple steps you may take to reduce
your risk of developing Candida infections. For example:
- Wear “dri-fit” clothing that helps
wick away moisture from your skin.
- Keep your armpits, groin area,
and other areas that are prone to infection clean and dry.
- Always shower and dry yourself
thoroughly after activities where you sweat.
- If you are overweight or obese,
properly dry your skin folds.
- Wear sandals or other open-toe
footwear when it’s warm.
- Change your socks and underwear
In healthy adults, candidiasis is often minor
and is easily treated. The infection can be more problematic in older adults
and young children, as well as other groups that have weaker immune systems.
This can cause a spread of the infection to other parts of the body, especially
in cases of oral thrush. The areas it can spread to include:
- heart valves
Preventive measures as well as early
treatment can go a long way in preventing Candida growth. The sooner you seek
treatment for suspected candidiasis, the better the outcome. Seek emergency
care if your rash is accompanied by abdominal pain or a high fever.