Candida Albicans

Overview

What is Candida albicans?

Candida albicans is a fungus that naturally lives on your body. Candida is yeast, a type of fungus, that that is typically found in small amounts on your mouth, skin and in your intestines. Healthy bacteria in your body (microbiome) control the balance of Candida. Often when Candida is off-balance, the yeast overgrows and causes infection (candidiasis).

Is Candida albicans an infection?

Candida albicans is the type of yeast that lives in your body. It can overgrow and turn into an infection if the balance of healthy bacteria and yeast is disrupted. Candidiasis is the term used to describe an infection caused by an overgrowth of yeast (Candida). Common infections include vaginal yeast infection, diaper rash and thrush.

What types of Candida albicans infections (candidiasis) exist?

Common types of infections caused by Candida albicans include:

  • Thrush: An overgrowth of yeast forms inside of your mouth and throat that appear as white, raised bumps.
  • Vaginal yeast infection: Yeast multiplies inside of your vagina and causes infection. Other names for a vaginal yeast infection are “vaginal candidiasis” or “candidal vaginitis.”
  • Invasive candidiasis: A severe infection that targets your whole body, specifically your blood, bones, brain and heart.

Who does Candida albicans affect?

Candida albicans fungus lives on everyone in small amounts. Different people are more likely to develop different types of fungal infections, most commonly:

  • Thrush: Common on infants, children, older adults, people who wear dentures and those with a weakened immune system.
  • Vaginal yeast infection: Frequent in those who are pregnant, use birth control pills or take hormones, have taken antibiotics recently or have a weak immune system.
  • Invasive candidiasis: Most common in hospitalized individuals, catheter users, surgery recipients and those with a weakened immune system.

How common are infections from Candida albicans?

Yeast infections are common because the balance of Candida in your body can easily become disrupted. The most common infection caused by Candida albicans is a vaginal yeast infection, which occurs in about 75% of people with a vagina at least once in their lifetime.

Is Candida albicans an STD?

Candida albicans is not a sexually transmitted disease or infection. Candida is a yeast that naturally lives in your body and can overgrow if the balance of yeast and healthy bacteria in your body changes. The balance of yeast could change as a result of sexual activity but having sex does not cause infection.

Symptoms and Causes

Where will I see symptoms of infection from Candida albicans?

Symptoms of infection from Candida albicans usually form in areas where Candida lives naturally, including:

  • Inside your mouth and throat.
  • Inside your vagina and rectum.
  • Near the diaper region on infants (genitals, buttocks, thighs).
  • On folds of your skin (armpits, groin, under breasts).

What are the symptoms of Candida albicans?

In normal situations, Candida won't cause any symptoms unless an overgrowth occurs due to an imbalance of bacteria. Symptoms of infection include:

  • Skin redness (rash).
  • Itching.
  • Blisters.
  • Lumpy white patches.
  • Pain, soreness or discomfort.
  • Burning sensation.
  • Vaginal discharge.

What causes infection by Candida albicans?

Causes of infection by Candida albicans include:

  • Feeling stressed.
  • Having uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Having a weak immune system.
  • Eating a diet with excess refined carbohydrates, yeast and sugar.
  • Taking antibiotics, steroids, hormones or oral contraceptives.

Will an infection by Candida albicans make it difficult for me to eat?

Candida albicans infections located in your mouth can make eating difficult. You may have pain while eating or swallowing and lose your sense of taste. If you notice an overgrowth of yeast in your mouth that looks white and lumpy, similar to the texture of cottage cheese, contact your healthcare provider for treatment.

Is Candida albicans contagious?

Normally, yeast infections are not contagious, but Candida albicans infections have the potential to spread to different hosts if you have a weakened immune system or if you are taking certain medications. It is unlikely that you will spread a Candida albicans infection if you are healthy.

If you come into contact with someone with infection by Candida albicans in their mouth (thrush), avoid contact with their saliva, although this may be tricky for new mothers. If you are breastfeeding an infant with thrush, you may develop the infection as well. Make sure to treat your infection and your baby’s infection at the same time to avoid recurrence.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is Candida albicans diagnosed?

A visual examination of the affected area helps diagnose Candida, specifically if it is in your mouth or genital region. Your healthcare provider will ask you questions about your symptoms, especially duration and severity. They'll also test the infection to identify exactly what it is so they can offer a comprehensive treatment plan.

What tests diagnose infections by Candida albicans?

Depending on the type of infection, your healthcare provider will test the infection to further diagnose the issue to offer a specific treatment plan. Tests for Candida albicans include:

  • Culture test: Your healthcare provider will swab the infected area with sterile cotton and examine the yeast and bacteria under a microscope.
  • Endoscopy: In the case of thrush, your healthcare provider may examine your esophagus, stomach and small intestine with a small light and camera mounted on a tube.

Management and Treatment

How do I get rid of Candida albicans?

Since Candida is a fungus, an antifungal medicine treats the infection to stop overgrowth. Antifungal medications come in two forms:

  • Oral: Medicine taken by mouth (tablet, liquid or lozenge).
  • Topical: Medicine applied directly to the affected area (creams or ointments).

Your healthcare provider will give you directions on how to use each type of antifungal medication to make sure the infection clears up and doesn’t return.

Can I take over-the-counter medicine to treat a Candida albicans infection?

Yes, you can use over-the-counter medicines to treat Candida infections, specifically vaginal yeast infections. Though this treatment option may work, if you are unsure whether or not you have a yeast infection, talk with your healthcare provider to verify the source of the infection for the best treatment.

How do I manage symptoms of Candida albicans infection?

Taking care of your symptoms starts with eliminating environments where Candida thrives. You can take steps to manage symptoms by:

  • Avoid foods with refined carbohydrates, yeast or foods high in sugar.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Treat the infection with medication as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  • Manage your overall health and treat underlying health conditions.

How soon after treatment will I feel better?

In most situations, it will take an average of 10 to 14 days for the infection to clear up completely. After you begin treatment, your symptoms will decrease in severity or often go away. If your symptoms stop, you might feel like you can stop treatment, but it is necessary to follow your treatment plan from start to finish so the infection completely clears up and does not return.

Prevention

How can I prevent Candida albicans?

You can prevent an overgrowth of Candida albicans by:

  • Maintaining good oral and physical hygiene.
  • Eating a well-balanced diet.
  • Managing your stress.
  • Managing your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.

If you take antibiotics or medications that may cause an overgrowth of Candida, talk with your healthcare provider about ways to treat the possibility of a yeast infection as a side effect or an underlying health condition.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have Candida albicans?

If you are healthy, Candida won't pose any threat to your well-being. If you experience any symptoms of infection, contact your healthcare provider for treatment. In most cases, symptoms will decrease or go away once treatment begins. Be sure to complete treatment as prescribed by your healthcare provider to reduce the risk of the infection returning.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

You should contact your healthcare provider if you experience any symptoms (mild to severe) especially if the infection prevents you from eating or going about your normal, daily routine. Often, over-the-counter antifungal treatments may work, but your doctor will be able to best prescribe a treatment plan to combat the overgrowth of yeast and prevent it from returning.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • Can you explain how to use the medication you prescribed for my infection?
  • Is this infection a side effect of any medications I am currently taking?
  • How can I reduce the frequency of yeast infections returning?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

While fungal infections are bothersome, treatment for Candida albicans will eliminate any discomfort from the symptoms. Always follow the directions of the treatment that your healthcare provider prescribes from start to finish to make sure the infection doesn’t return.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/10/2022.

References

  • American Academy of Oral Medicine. Oral Yeast Infections (Thrush or Candidiasis). (http://www.aaom.com/oral-yeast-infections) Accessed 5/10/2022.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Candidiasis. (https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html) Accessed 5/10/2022.
  • Mayer, F. L., Wilson, D., & Hube, B. Candida Albicans Pathogenicity Mechanisms. (https://doi.org/10.4161/viru.22913) Virulence. 2013; 119–128. Accessed 5/10/2022.
  • Merck Manual. Candidiasis. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/infections/fungal-infections/candidiasis?query=Candida%20albicans) Accessed 5/10/2022.
  • Poulain D. Candida Albicans, Plasticity and Pathogenesis. (https://doi.org/10.3109/1040841X.2013.813904) Critical Reviews in Microbiology. 2015; 208–217. Accessed 5/10/2022.

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