Thrush or Candidiasis is a fungal type of infection caused by any of the Candida species and is also known by a number of other names such as Candida, vulvovaginal candidiasis, vulvovaginal candidosis and vaginal yeast infection.
Vaginal thrush symptoms include an irritation and swelling of the vagina and vulva. Thrush is commonly caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. This species of fungus is naturally found in the vagina and is usually quite harmless. However, if bacterial levels change, Candida albicans can cause the symptoms of thrush.
Candida albicans is a casual organism and is generally easy to treat, although it may recur. It may occur in people who are ‘run down’ or who have recently had to take courses of antibiotics for other illnesses. It also tends to occur in persons with a depressed immune system, who have been taking immunosuppressive drugs (transplant patients for example). It may also appear in patients suffering from Aids.
Approximately 75% of women will have thrush during their lives, and 50 percent of these will get thrush more than once. Thrush mainly affects women in their twenties and thirties, and women who are pregnant. Girls that have not yet started their periods, and women who have started the menopause, are less affected.
Why some women are more likely to have thrush than others is debated, but a poorly controlled diabetes or a seriously damaged immune system are just two of the suggestions put forward. It has also been said that an overgrowth of the ‘less friendly’ bacteria can become a problem when they disrupt the balance of organisms in the intestines, and this can be affected by (but not limited to) antibiotic use, birth control pills, the use of hormones and steroids, diet, alcohol and stress.
Candidiasis, as we have already mentioned is a fungal infection, and covers infections that include oral thrush, vaginitis and systemic (and potentially life threatening) diseases. The more serious Candida infections are also referred to as candidemia, which can affect cancer, transplant and Aids patients.
Symptoms of candidiasis vary depending on the location of the infection. If it appears on the vulva or vagina, it may cause burning, itching, irritation, soreness and a white ‘cottage cheese’ type discharge. For men it might produce very close to the head of their penis or foreskin red patchy sores, severe itching and in most of the cases a burning sensation. Candidiasis symptoms of the penis may also produce a white discharge, but this is not common.
Diabetes mellitus and the use of anti-bacterial antibiotics have been linked to an increased incidence of yeast infections (Candida) and diet was found to affect rates of symptomatic Candidiasis in tests carried out on animals. Even the wearing of a wet swimming suit for a long period of time is believed to be a risk factor.
Whilst Candida infections of the mucosal membranes or skin that cause local inflammation are quite common and clearly attributable to the genus Candida, candidiasis describes a variety of differing syndromes that can frequently differ in their causes and outcomes and can be divided into a number of different types.