The yeast, Candida albicans, is an opportunistic pathogen which causes various infections ranging from superficial, such as thrush, to systemic and potentially life-threatening. Being a constituent of the normal flora of the skin and mucous membranes, Candida can often cause skin infection.
In principle, Candida can cause infection anywhere but it favors moist and dark places of the human body. Hence, the typical areas of skin infection are the lining of the mouth, skin between fingers and toes, genital area, vagina, armpits, skin under the breasts in females, and skin folds of the stomach particularly in obese people. Though Candida skin infection is not a very serious disease, it may be a sign of some underlying disorder such as diabetes. Chronic use of antibiotics, steroids, hormonal imbalances, may also cause Candida overgrowth. Patients with a compromised immune system due to HIV, cancer, chemotherapy, etc. are particularly vulnerable to Candidiasis.
The skin acts as a barrier to most pathogens. But cuts and bruises may cause the opportunistic pathogens like Candida to penetrate the skin and cause infections. Most of these skin infections are superficial and rapidly respond to treatment. As the Candida can cause infection in patients with other skin problems or some other debilitating disease like diabetes or AIDS, or other conditions where the immune system is compromised, a high standard of personal hygiene and good general health are vital in preventing Candida infections.
Superficial Candida skin infections appear as red rash with sharp, scalloped edges. These rashes can cause itching and pain. Babies with nappy rash, patients with metabolic disorders like diabetes, obese people, pregnant women and those on high dose oral contraceptive pills, people with suppressed immune systems are at high risk of Candida skin infections. Diabetics have a high level of glucose in all their body secretions and glucose feeds yeast; so generally a recurring yeast skin infection may be the first sign of undiagnosed diabetes mellitus. Hormonal imbalances also favor yeast growth. A weak immune system is also unable to fight Candida overgrowth.
Candida caused skin infection can be brought under control with anti-fungal medications like topical creams. But the infection may recur if a favorable environment is created again. With strict personal hygiene, keeping weight under check, regulation of blood sugar, a low-carbohydrate diet, total elimination of sugar, stress control, regular exercise, use of probiotics, and other life-style changes it is possible to keep Candida skin infections at bay. This holistic approach will help prevent not only Candida but also other diseases.