Definition: Candida is a type of fungus that naturally occurs in small amounts on the skin and in the mouth, the intestines, and the vagina. The most common of the Candida species is Candida albicans (KAN-did-uh AL-bi-kanz). Candida does not normally cause disease unless an event causes the organisms to multiply and cause infection. For example, Candida could overgrow after a course of antibiotics, or because the immune system is depressed due to disease, or as a side effect of some medications. Candida overgrowth is called candidiasis.
Candida overgrowth in the vagina is commonly called a vaginal yeast infection or vaginitis. Many women experience a yeast infection at some point during their lives, and vaginal candidiasis is more common during pregnancy.
Candidiasis on the skin (called cutaneous candidiasis) tends to occur most often in warm, moist areas such as the groin (can occur with a diaper rash in babies) and under the breasts. The nails can also be infected (called candidal paronychia), typically because of chronic exposure to water or after a manicure or pedicure that is done with tools that are not sterile.
A more serious form of candida infection in the bloodstream or internal organs is invasive candidiasis. Invasive candidiasis is more rare, and tends to occur in patients who are already very sick, such as those who have had an organ transplant or those who are in intensive care units. This form of candidiasis can be fatal.
Treatment of candidiasis normally includes antifungal medications, either taken by mouth or applied topically. For diaper rash or other forms of skin infections, keeping the area dry and clean is also helpful. Long-term antifungal therapy may be needed to treat chronic candidiasis.