What Is Candida Albicans?

Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins
Scientist with beakers
Scientist with beakers

About four out of five people have the Candida albicans fungus living in controlled environments throughout their bodies. When the population of the bacteria increases, a yeast infection can occur with a condition called Candidiasis, or thrush. Though these conditions are easily treatable for most people, those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.

Candida albicans is found in several areas of most bodies. It is primarily found in the mouth, throat and bowels. It can also be spotted on the skin, in the bloodstream and even in the heart. Normally in inert form, chemical imbalances can create the environment necessary for the typically unicellular Candida albicans to become an invading, tissue-destroying infection.

When this colonization happens in localized areas, it can result in minor yeast infections like vaginitis for women, balanitis for men, and even diaper rash for young children. These are characterized by inflammation of the infected area, itching, scaling and discharge. Antibiotics and, potentially, prescription steroids may be prescribed to quell these infections. Over-the-counter creams made with antifungal agents like clotrimazole or miconazole also appear effective in conquering many minor infections.

The symptoms of Candidiasis can be more widespread than the localized inflammation and discharge, though. Called candidemia, this more life-threatening fungal assault infests the bloodstream and can cause fever, anemia and even shock, if untreated. Before even manifesting itself in a condition like vaginitis, a long list of other indicators could provide clues to an out-of-control Candida albicans population. These range from constipation, sore throat, memory problems, and fatigue to headaches, pained urination, and blisters in the mouth.

Those with immunodeficiencies like AIDS, along with chemotherapy patients, are particularly vulnerable to infection by Candida albicans. Studies have shown that an excess amount of antibiotics or immunosuppressants in the system can kill other bacteria needed to keep C. albicans levels manageable. Severe candidemia, however, appears to be a problem confined to patients suffering from AIDS or cancer as well as those who have just undergone transplantation.

Aside from antifungal ointments or pills to suppress a yeast infection, some people attempt to bring balance to their diets in an effort to keep Candida albicans even further at bay. Diets low in sugar are often advised, since these cellular organisms feed on simple sugars, which can be found most abundantly in pastas, breads, candy, cakes and soft drinks. These dieting changes should not replace medical treatment, however, but rather complement it. Remaining unchallenged at the microbial level with a proven antifungal cream or oral supplement, Candida albicans will continue to spread.

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    • Scientist with beakers
      Scientist with beakers