A fungal yeast infection that usually affects only one part of the body but can be serious if it spreads around the body

  • Using intravenous drugs is a risk factor
  • Age and gender as risk factors depend on the type
  • Genetics is not a significant factor

In healthy people, the yeast Candida albicans normally exists on the surface of certain moist areas of the body, including the mouth, throat, and vagina. Sometimes, the fungus overgrows in localized areas, causing minor forms of candidiasis such as oral thrush and vaginal thrush. However, in people who have reduced immunity, such as those with AIDS (see HIV infection and AIDS) or diabetes mellitus, the fungus sometimes spreads into the blood and other tissues. Infection that spreads throughout the body may also occur in people who have long-term urinary catheters or intravenous catheters, or people who have had prolonged courses of antibiotics or use intravenous drugs.

Widespread candidiasis can be diagnosed by culturing the fungus from a sample of blood or other body fluid or tissue specimens. A chest X-ray may also be carried out to look for signs of infection in the lungs. Treatment consists of antifungal drugs, which may be given either orally or intravenously, depending on the severity of the infection. Untreated, candidiasis can spread throughout the body and may eventually be fatal. The outlook depends on the extent of infection and on the person’s general health.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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