Candida is the popular term for candidiasis (yeast overgrowth), a condition first identified by American physicians in the 1970s. It is caused by Candida albicans and sometimes by C. tropicalis or other species of the same genus. Changes in the bowel flora or a drop in the immunity of an individual can immediately cause its proliferation.
This pathogenic fungus is known to inhabit various tissues, such as the skin, female genital tract, and gastrointestinal tract and forms a curd like coating on the affected tissue if provided with a conducive atmosphere.
Symptoms Of Candidiasis
Candida can manifest as cutaneous, mucosal, or chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis.
In cutaneous candidiasis, reddish erosions appear, usually in the folds of the skin, which tend to get macerated with sweat.
Candida also tends to affect mucocutaneous areas, like the mouth and genitals. Candidial stomatitis or inflammation of the mouth is also called Thrush.
Oral candidiasis can be categorized on the basis of appearance, as pseudomembranous, atrophic, hyperplastic, and nodular.
Chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis usually occurs due to poor immunity, due to allergies and auto-immune disorders or of other diseases such as diabetes mellitus, cancer, AIDS, etc, and excessive use of antibiotics or steroids that suppress the immune system.
In systemic candidiasis, the bronchi may get infected, so as to produce severe cough with curd-like expectoration, which is called bronchial candidiasis. Pulmonary candidiasis has, in addition to the above symptoms, dyspnoea or breathlessness, chest pain, and haemoptysis or spitting of blood, but this is a rare feature.
The term invasive candidiasis is used in those cases where the candidial organisms multiply in very large numbers and spread via the bloodstream to distant organs, and produce pustular lesions called micro-abscesses.
The skin may develop nodules.
Nail-bed infections or paronychia (an affliction that makes nails parrot-beak shaped) may occur. Inflammation of the muscles (myositis) may take place.
Osteomyelitis (an affliction of the bones) may also occur.
Other rare manifestations involving the heart, kidney, and meninges can prove fatal.
Candida infections may also occur in cases of patients on IV feeding or urinary catheters, due to the tubing.
Diagnosis Of Candidiasis
Candidiasis is diagnosed by histopathological evidence of the organism within the tissues. Serological tests are not very satisfactory. Another commonly used household technique is the Spittle test. Here, the person spits into a glass of water immediately after waking up in the morning, before brushing his/her teeth. If there is no oral candidiasis, the spit floats on the level of water. If the person is affected by oral candidiasis, the spit will probably gradually diffuse into the water giving a fibrinous appearance.
The yeast can be cultured in the laboratory or sent for microscopy, using discharges from the body, to identify the type of infection.