Candidiasis is a yeast infection that can affect various parts of the body, most commonly the mouth and the vagina. A healthy human body contains a balanced blend of yeast. From time to time, the yeast overgrows, causing an uncomfortable infection. Primary symptoms of candidiasis include soreness or itchiness, and white patches or discharge. There is a common misconception that candidiasis is sexually transmitted. Although flare-ups can happen following sexual activity, it is important to note that candidiasis is also common in individuals who are not sexually active.
Oral candidiasis, or thrush, occurs when candida, a natural organism that is present in everyone, accumulates in larger-than-normal amounts in the mouth. It results in uncomfortable symptoms, including lesions on the tongue or inner cheek, and it can spread to all areas of the mouth, including the gums and tonsils.
Anyone can be affected by oral candidiasis, but babies and elderly people are particularly susceptible.
White lesions on the tongue and inner cheeks that are slightly raised
Redness, soreness or bleeding in the mouth that can cause difficulty eating
Red or cracked skin at the corners of the mouth
A cottony sensation in the mouth accompanied by dulled taste
Oral thrush is fairly common in babies, who can transmit the infection to their mothers while breastfeeding. Nursing mothers who have unusual pain, redness, flaking or itching on the breast may have candidiasis.
Individuals whose immune systems are compromised as a result of HIV/AIDS, cancer or another condition, and those with poorly managed diabetes, are more susceptible to oral candidiasis.
In severe cases, the lesions may spread downward into your esophagus — the long, muscular tube stretching from the back of your mouth to your stomach (Candida esophagitis). If this occurs, you may experience difficulty swallowing or feel as if food is getting stuck in your throat.
If left untreated, oral candidiasis can spread to other parts of the body, including the digestive tract and lungs. This can cause problems with nutrition and eating, and with overall health.
Usually referred to simply as a “yeast infection”, vaginal candidiasis is characterized by itchiness or inflammation of the vagina and vulva. It is extremely common: about three quarters of all women are affected during their lifetimes, and many experience two or more outbreaks.
You may be more likely to develop vaginal candidiasis if your estrogen levels are elevated as a result of pregnancy or hormone therapy, if you have poorly controlled diabetes, or if you have recently used antibiotics.