Invasive Candidiasis

Overview

What is invasive candidiasis?

Invasive candidiasis is a serious fungal infection that could become life-threatening if not diagnosed and managed appropriately. It occurs when yeast called Candida gets into your bloodstream and spreads to other parts of your body, such as:

  • Bone.
  • Brain and central nervous system.
  • Eyes.
  • Heart valves.
  • Kidney.
  • Liver.
  • Spleen.

The condition can cause extended hospital stays and even death.

What’s the difference between invasive candidiasis and other Candida infections?

Candida is a common type of yeast that’s found everywhere. Various forms of Candida live on your skin and inside certain parts of your body. Sometimes, the yeast can grow out of control and cause minor infections in specific parts of your body. Examples include thrush (in your mouth) and vaginal yeast infection.

But if Candida gets into your bloodstream, it causes candidemia, one of the most common healthcare-associated infections. Severe, untreated candidemia can lead to invasive candidemia, which affects internal organs.

Who might get invasive candidiasis?

Certain people have a higher chance of getting candidemia and invasive candidiasis, such as:

  • People who’ve had surgery, especially abdominal surgery.
  • People in the hospital for several days or longer, especially the intensive care unit (ICU).
  • Premature babies.
  • Those who have a central venous catheter (central line), such as a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line), or another device inserted into a vein.
  • People with a weak immune system (for example, someone who had an organ transplant or is receiving chemotherapy), diabetes or kidney failure.
  • Users of illegal drugs.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes invasive candidiasis?

Invasive candidiasis occurs when Candida yeast gets into your bloodstream and spreads to internal organs.

This usually happens when a medical device is being inserted into your skin or gastrointestinal tract. Examples include a catheter draining fluid from your body or an IV that delivers nutrition or medication. A medical device can pick up Candida from your skin’s surface and carry it to your bloodstream.

Sometimes, Candida can be transmitted from a healthcare worker’s hands and contaminate a medical device, too.

What are the symptoms of invasive candidiasis?

Symptoms of candidemia and invasive candidiasis can be difficult to detect. This is because most people who develop the condition are already sick or recovering from surgery. In addition, the signs are similar to other infections, such as bacterial infections.

Symptoms of invasive candidiasis may include:

Some symptoms are specific to the location of the infection. For example, invasive candidiasis symptoms in your eyes can cause:

  • Blurriness.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Vision changes.

Invasive candidiasis infection in your brain can cause:

Is invasive candidiasis contagious?

Invasive candidiasis isn’t contagious from one person to another. But the yeast itself can travel from person to person and on surfaces. However, Candida would have to be introduced to the bloodstream to cause candidemia or invasive candidiasis.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is invasive candidiasis diagnosed?

A healthcare provider can diagnose a Candida infection with a sample of your blood. The sample goes to a lab, where staff put it in a special substance and wait to see whether Candida multiplies. Test results can take a few days.

Management and Treatment

How is invasive candidiasis treated?

Treatment for invasive candidiasis occurs in a hospital. It involves injecting antifungal medication directly into your bloodstream.

The specific type of antifungal depends on several factors, including:

  • Age.
  • Location of infection.
  • Severity of infection.
  • Strength of the immune system.

Examples of antifungal medications used for invasive candidiasis are:

Treatment usually continues for two weeks after symptoms go away and blood cultures are negative for Candida. However, severe cases may need prolonged treatment.

Prevention

How can I prevent invasive candidiasis?

If you’re at high risk for developing invasive candidiasis, your healthcare provider may prescribe antifungal prophylaxis. This means that you’ll receive an antifungal medication to prevent infection.

Other ways you can help reduce your risk include:

  • Keep your skin clean, especially your hands.
  • Look for signs of early infection, such as redness or pain where a catheter or IV enters your body.
  • Make sure that anyone who touches you washes their hands first, including healthcare workers.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have invasive candidiasis?

Invasive candidiasis is a serious condition with a high risk of complications that have long-term health effects, such as:

  • Endocarditis, infection and inflammation of your heart’s inner lining.
  • Endophthalmitis, infection of the tissues of your eye, leading to vision loss.
  • Osteomyelitis, inflammation and swelling in your bone.

The condition must be treated in the hospital over several weeks. It’s fatal in 46% to 75% of people who develop it.

Living With

When should I seek medical attention?

Notify your healthcare provider immediately if you’re at risk for Candida infection and experience any of its symptoms.

Is invasive candidiasis life-threatening?

Invasive candidiasis can cause serious complications to internal organs. The condition may be fatal if not treated promptly.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Invasive candidiasis is a serious fungal infection. Yeast called Candida gets into your bloodstream and spreads to other parts of your body. If you’re in the hospital or at risk for infection, be sure to report any symptoms to your healthcare team immediately. And talk to your healthcare providers about strategies to prevent infection.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/27/2022.

References

  • American Thoracic Society. Candidemia (Blood Infection) and Other Candida Infections. (https://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/candidemia.pdf) Accessed 1/27/2022.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Invasive Candidiasis. (https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/invasive/index.html#:~:text=Invasive%20candidiasis%20is%20an%20infection,other%20parts%20of%20the%20body.) Accessed 1/27/2022.
  • Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD). Systemic candidiasis. (https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/1076/systemic-candidiasis) Accessed 1/27/2022.
  • Merck Manual (Professional Version). Candidiasis (Invasive). (https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/fungi/candidiasis-invasive) Accessed 1/27/2022.
  • Minnesota Department of Health. About Invasive Candidiasis (IC). (https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/candidiasis/ic/basics.html) Accessed 1/27/2022.

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