About 75% of women of childbearing age have experienced a vaginal fungal infection at least once in their lifetime. About 90% of these are caused by Candida albicans, and the remaining cases are the result of the fungi infection of this species. How to recognize the risk of infection and how to deal with it? We discuss that and other issues in detail in this article.
Candidiasis – what is it and when does it occur?
Candida fungi live in natural conditions i.e. in the vagina, mouth, large intestine and on the skin. In healthy people, the presence of these fungi does not cause any symptoms. Only during periods of weakening of the organism and reduced immunity, their excessive multiplication and the appearance of unpleasant ailments may occur. This condition is called candidiasis or thrush.
Vaginal and vulvar mycosis is a common disease. About 75% of women of childbearing age have experienced such an infection at least once in their life. Candida albicans are responsible for 90% of fungal infections, and other fungi of this species for the remaining cases. The development of infections is favoured by disorders of the immune system. Candidiasis may develop:
- as a result of long-term use of antibiotics
- in the course of diseases that impair the immune system, e.g. HIV infection
- in the case of cancer, as a coexisting disease
- as a result of exhaustion and stress
- during hormone therapy
- as a result of excessive intimate hygiene
- as a result of wearing impermeable synthetic underwear.
Diet and the risk of fungal infection
Another factor that disrupts the natural microbiota and vaginal pH is an improper diet. The consumption of highly processed foods, high in carbohydrates (sugars), and low in fibre-rich vegetables is a significant contributor to the development of yeast infection.
How can I find out about the disease and which treatment should I choose?
The most common symptoms of a fungal infection include persistent itching, vaginal and vulvar irritation, lumpy and cheesy discharge, redness and swelling of intimate parts, and a burning sensation during intercourse or urination. However, keep in mind that none of these symptoms is specific to a fungal infection and that is why diagnostic tests to identify the pathogen and apply the appropriate treatment are so important. It should also be noted that about 30% of the infection may be asymptomatic, therefore it is recommended to undergo regular preventive diagnostic tests.
Pregnancy and candidiasis
Pregnancy also promotes fungal infections due to changes in the hormonal balance and impaired glucose tolerance. Untreated candidiasis can cause serious complications for health and fertility, such as fungal infection of the cervical canal and fallopian tubes or the transmission of the infection to other organs. Untreated vaginal mycosis in women during pregnancy may cause premature birth or, in the case of natural vaginal delivery, cause an infection of a newborn baby.
Relapses of infection – how to react?
Female fungal infections, especially in the absence of lifestyle changes (such as diet and hygiene) or disorders that weaken the immune system, tend to recur. Such infections require in-depth diagnostics. Performing a culture or molecular test allows determining the specific microorganism responsible for the infection. Preparations based on clotrimazole or fluconazole, oral medications or gynaecological probiotics are most often used in the treatment of mycosis.
An infection in a partner
The partner of a woman with diagnosed candidiasis should also be treated. Most men go through an infection without symptoms. Nevertheless, they may experience persistent itching and soreness of the penis, cheese-like masses under the foreskin, frequent bladder pressure and pain when urinating, as well as during ejaculation and sexual intercourse.
Diagnosis of candidiasis – research methods
Diagnostics can be carried out based on a microscopic preparation and the detection of Candida mycelium in it, or based on a culture from stool, mucous membranes and other physiological secretions. However, the most effective method is molecular testing. To ensure the most reliable and comprehensive diagnosis of fungal infections, genXone offers a test that allows the detection of the genetic material of the 7 most common Candida fungi. Due to the use of the real-time PCR method, it is possible to identify the pathogen at an early stage of the infection’s development, even when it is asymptomatic. At the same time, the real-time PCR test is an examination deprived of systematic error resulting from the subjective interpretation of the microscopic preparation, which makes this method more reliable.