Candidiasis of the Skin: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
A candidiasis infection of the skin is caused by a fungus called Candida. A small number of Candida organisms are naturally found in your skin and do not cause any harm. However, under certain conditions, these Candida organisms can sometimes multiply and cause infection. The skin is one of the common sites that candida organisms infect. Other sites of common Candida infection include the vagina and mouth.
What is skin candidiasis?
Skin candidiasis refers to a fungal infection of your skin. There are different types of bacteria and fungi that live on the surface of your skin. Most of these organisms are not harmful and your body needs them to carry out important functions of the body. However, at times, these organisms can multiply uncontrollably and cause an infection.
A fungal skin, hair, and nail infection is also referred to as cutaneous candidiasis and is usually seen as a red, itchy rash mostly found in the folds of the skin. Although the symptoms may be troublesome, it can be easily treated with antifungal creams or powders.
Causes of Skin Candidiasis
Skin candidiasis is an infection caused by Candida organisms. This skin condition may occur due to several reasons such as:
- Warm climate - Warm tropical weather can cause this condition to flare up, resulting in fungal infection. It can cause rashes and sudden outbreaks of uncontrollable itching in the moist and warm folds of the skin.
- Tight clothing - Tight clothing further serves to restrict the air flow to your body, resulting in your body building up sweat, and serving to exacerbate any fungal infection that may already be present on your body. This usually results in the candida organism multiplying uncontrollably, leading to an outbreak of candida infection.
- Poor hygiene – It is vital that you practice good hygiene and if you do not, the chances of you acquiring infections of one kind or another increases exponentially. Always make it a habit to wash your hands and the rest of your body periodically, at times twice or thrice a day. Good hygiene should go a long way to prevent any candida outbreak.
- Not changing undergarments frequently – If you do not change your undergarments frequently, then you may soon develop a constant itching and burning sensation in the pubic area. This would further result in an outbreak of candida infection, so make it a point to change your undergarments everyday.
- Obesity - If you are overweight, then the chances of you developing a candida infection goes up. It would be hard for you to clean your body thoroughly, resulting in poor hygiene and this in turn would result in candida increasing exponentially, leading to a full-fledged outbreak.
- Antibiotic therapy – If you are currently taking antibiotics, it may kill off the bacteria that helps to control the candida organisms, and this will lead to an outbreak of candida infection. So make sure that you are taking the right medication and be aware of the effects it may have on bacteria present on your body. In case you are not sure, do consult your physician.
- Corticosteroid drugs and other immunosuppressive drugs – If you have been prescribed corticosteroid drugs and other immunosuppressive drugs, then one of the side effects of taking these drugs is that it may result in an outbreak of the candida organism as they affect the immune system.
- Weakened immune system – Your immune system could be compromised on account of certain health conditions like diabetes, pregnancy, and other medical conditions and this in turn can make you more susceptible to a candida infection.
- Failure to dry the skin properly – If you do not pat yourself dry after a bath and allow your skin to remain wet, this can cause the candida organism to break out and result in an infection.
The ideal environment for candida organisms is a warm and moist area. For this reason, these infections are most commonly seen in the areas of skin folds. Candida infections also occur in babies, especially on their buttocks. A fungal infection develops because the diapers provide an excellent environment for the growth of Candida organisms.
Skin candidiasis is not contagious and is it does not spread from person to person by contact. However, people with weakened immunity could get infected after touching the skin of an infected person. Such people are at a risk of developing a severe infection of candidiasis.
Symptoms of Skin Candidiasis
The most common symptom of skin candidiasis is a rash. It is often accompanied with redness and severe itching. Sometimes, this infection can cause your skin to become sore and cracked. It is possible for you to develop blisters and pustules as well.
The common site for candidiasis of the skin is the skin folds. However, a fungal infection can develop in any areas of the body. Some of the usual sites that the fungus can thrive are in the groin area, the armpits, between your fingers, and under the breasts.
Similar appearances may be seen with other conditions apart from candidiasis, and some of them include:
- Ringworm infection - Candida infection may resemble a ringworm infection at times, with the skin raised in the form of a ring, with the associated itching sensation.
- Hives - A candida infection might also resemble hives, another health condition and only a consultation with the doctor can help you determine if it is a case of hives or candida infection.
- Herpes infection - It may also resemble a herpes infection at times, so make sure that you pay your physician a visit at the earliest for accurate diagnosis.
- Diabetes-related skin conditions - A candida infection, either in the genital area or in other parts of your body may resemble diabetes-related skin conditions. And since this infection is so easy to be mistaken for other health disorders, a timely visit to the doctor can provide you with both an accurate diagnosis as well as an effective treatment in time.
- Contact dermatitis - This infection can at times even resemble contact dermatitis, which is why so many have a hard time in determining whether they have a candida infection or something else altogether. This is why you need to call in on your doctor for an accurate diagnosis at the earliest.
- Eczema - At times, a candida infection may even resemble eczema, from the outward appearance to the watery discharge, along with the itching sensation. You need to consult a medical specialist to find out if you have candida or something else, and get it treated right away.
- Psoriasis - It can also resemble psoriasis, so before you opt to self-medicate yourself, do consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and get the right treatment for the right condition.
- Seborrheic dermatitis - It can also resemble seborrheic dermatitis, another skin condition; so double check to see that you have a candida infection before opting to head to the nearest pharmacy for some OTC medication for some quick relief. Pay your doctor a visit for an accurate diagnosis.
A fungal infection in the mouth is also called as oral thrush or oral candidiasis. Oral thrush is commonly seen in newborns and babies younger than 6 months old. You can check your child’s mouth and see if there is cracked skin in the corners and unusual white patches on the tongue, lips, or inside cheeks. If you suspect that your child is suffering from oral thrush, consult your doctor to have a prescription of an antifungal medication.
It is important that you take notice of a candidiasis infection since an untreated Candida infection can cause serious health conditions, especially if it enters the bloodstream. Seek immediate medical attention if anyone in your family has candidiasis, especially babies.
Diagnosis of Skin Candidiasis
A candidiasis infection can be easily diagnosed just by looking at the lesion. Your doctor will inspect the site of the infection and check the skin during the physical examination.
Your doctor will also do a skin culture to confirm the diagnosis. During this procedure, your doctor will use a cotton swab to collect the skin sample from the infected area. This sample will then be sent to the laboratory to test for the presence of Candida organisms.
Treatment of Skin Candidiasis
Severe cases of skin candidiasis can be treated effectively with topical antifungal creams or powders. Some of the recommended over-the-counter antifungal creams include clotrimazole, miconazole, and tioconazole.
These drugs will kill the Candida organisms, thus reducing the spread of the infection. If these drugs are not effective, then your doctor will prescribe some antifungal creams that contain nystatin and ketoconazole. If the infection has spread to other areas of the body including your mouth and throat, then you will need an oral antifungal to get rid of it.
Home Remedies for the Treatment of Skin Candidiasis
There are also natural remedies for the treatment of skin candidiasis. Some of them are effective, especially if the Candida infection is only mild. The good thing is that they are affordable, readily available, and have lesser side effects compared to other topical treatments.
Some examples of natural remedies are:
- Coconut oil – Coconut oil is loaded with various health benefits and acts as a great moisturizer. Using coconut oil regularly can help you combat candida infection and moreover, applying this oil over the site directly can lead to some immediate relief from the constant itching sensation.
- Apple cider vinegar – Apple cider vinegar is also known for its health benefits and the fact that it actually helps to limit fungal growth while alleviating the itching and other symptoms of candida infection.
- Garlic – Applying garlic paste over the affected area can help to alleviate some of the symptoms, including the uncontrollable itching sensation.
- Tea tree oil – This particular oil can help to soothe your skin and help to alleviate some of the associated symptoms, including itching. It can also help to limit the fungal growth as well.
The symptoms can also be relieved by controlling your blood sugar levels, if you are a diabetic. The reason is that high and low blood glucose levels can contribute to the development of Candida infections. The treatment for fungal infections can be achieved by minimizing the sugar intake in your diet and exercising at least three times a week.
If you have an increased blood sugar level, it is important that you follow your doctor’s instructions and take your medications, as advised. And make sure that you keep your doctor informed of any OTC medications you may have opted to take to help relieve some of the symptoms of candida infection. Given your blood sugar levels, some of the medications may not be appropriate for you, so do consult your physician at the earliest, in case of any queries.
Most of the time, skin candidiasis does not need any treatment and people recover completely on their own, without any complications.
Following treatment, candidiasis will be completely healed within one to two weeks. Without treatment, the infection will go away within a few days to a few weeks, depending on the severity of your condition. Sometimes, even following treatment, it is possible for your infection to return. So make sure that you practice good hygiene at all times and consult your physician about what else you can do to prevent another candida outbreak.
Prevention of Skin Candidiasis
Skin candidiasis is easy to prevent with just some simple home remedies. The most important home remedy that will prevent skin candidiasis is proper hygiene. Wash your skin regularly and make sure that your skin is dried thoroughly after washing. Doing so will prevent your skin from becoming too moist. Moreover, it is important to keep the Candida organisms away.
Some other lifestyle changes that could prevent you from having Candida infections include:
- Not wearing damp clothes such as swimsuits or sweaty workout clothes. Make sure to remove them as quickly as possible. Make sure that you get them washed as soon as possible. This is done to prevent any more recurrence of a candida outbreak.
- Frequently changing your socks and undergarments. Make it a golden rule to change your undergarments on a regular basis. Get them cleaned regularly before using them again, this should help to prevent a recurrence of a candida infection.
- Not wearing tight clothes. Loosely-fitted clothes are more preferred. Tight clothes are uncomfortable and will cause your body to sweat, and this in turn may help the candida infection to spread to other parts of your body.
- Including probiotics in your diet. A healthy diet and good hygiene should go a long way to preventing another case of candidiasis.
- Reducing your sugar intake. Limiting your sugar levels should also help to keep the candida organisms down and prevent it from multiplying uncontrollably.