Candida albicans Infections: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment

Medically Reviewed By Darragh O'Carroll, MD
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Candida albicans fungus is part of the body’s microflora. It is the most common cause of fungal infections in humans. Although many infections do not signify a serious health issue, symptoms of Candida albicans overgrowth need medical treatment. This article covers the different types of Candida albicans infections, symptoms, and your options for treatment. 

What is Candida albicans?

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Candida albicans is a type of fungus that grows as yeast. In humans, it is present in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, mouth, and vagina. It is part of a person’s natural microorganisms and usually does not signify a health issue

So-called “good” bacteria in the body help maintain an optimal balance of Candida albicans. However, an overgrowth of Candida albicans can lead to infection.

Symptoms of a Candida albicans infection can include vaginal discharge, skin rashes, white mouth patches, and GI issues. 

Candida albicans infections may result from conditions and situations including: 

  • taking antibiotics
  • using oral contraceptives
  • eating refined carbohydrates and sugars
  • experiencing high levels of stress 
  • living with untreated diabetes 
  • having a weak immune system  

An overgrowth of Candida albicans may cause an infection, including the following.

Urinary tract infection

Candida albicans is one of the most common causes of urinary tract infections (UTIs). It usually develops in the lower portion of the urinary tract. In extreme cases, the infection can reach the kidneys. 

If you have a urinary catheter or any other medical device in the urinary tract, this can increase your chances of developing a UTI. 

Symptoms 

Common symptoms of a UTI may include the following: 

  • constant need to urinate
  • sensation of burning when urinating
  • pelvic or abdominal pain
  • cloudy urine
  • blood in the urine
  • unusual smell in the urine

Treatment

If symptoms persist, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. They may also recommend that you remove any medical devices.

Yeast infection

The fungus Candida, including the subspecies Candida albicans, is the primary cause of yeast infections. Although it is common to experience a yeast infection, recurring episodes may be a symptom of Candida albicans overgrowth. 

Pregnant people may be prone to yeast infections due to hormonal changes. Taking antibiotics or starting high estrogen hormonal therapy can also cause an infection.

Although a yeast infection is not sexually transmitted, since it can develop without having sex, transmission of a Candida albicans infection is possible during sex.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a yeast infection may include the following:

  • irritation or swelling around the vagina
  • atypical vaginal discharge that may appear thick and white
  • rash around the vagina or the head of the penis 
  • sensation of burning during sex
  • pain or burning during urination

Treatment

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as antifungal lotions and suppositories, can help treat mild yeast infections. Treatment for stronger yeast infections may include a prescription oral antifungal medicine, such as fluconazole. 

Oral thrush

Candida albicans is a usual part of the mouth microflora, but an overgrowth may lead to oral thrush infections. Severe infections can reach the back of your throat, tonsils, and esophagus. 

Several factors can increase the risk of developing oral thrush, such as: 

  • taking antibiotics
  • living with untreated diabetes
  • having a weak immune system
  • wearing dentures 

Symptoms

Common symptoms of oral thrush may include the following:

  • white spots inside the mouth 
  • sensation of burning in the mouth
  • pain or difficulty with eating or swallowing
  • sudden loss of taste

Treatment

An oral thrush infection always requires treatment, as severe cases may lead to a systemic Candida albicans infection. 

Treatment includes antifungal medication, commonly in pill or liquid form. 

Doctors may prescribe an oral dose of fluconazole in the case of a severe infection. 

Mucocutaneous candidiasis

Candida albicans infections can also affect your skin and mucous membranes. This is known as mucocutaneous candidiasis.

This condition occurs as recurrent or persistent infections affecting the nails, skin, and the mucous membranes of the mouth and genitals.

These areas are prone to infection because Candida albicans fungi seek out moist and warm environments, such as armpits, toes, fingers, and the skin under your breast. Keeping up with hygiene habits is important to prevent this type of Candida albicans infection. 

Symptoms

Common symptoms of mucocutaneous candidiasis may include the following:

  • skin rashes with red or discolored spots
  • severe swelling of the skin
  • white flaky scales
  • pus filled pimples  
  • cracks in the skin 

Treatment

The most common treatment for mucocutaneous candidiasis is an antifungal cream, which can contain miconazole, econazole, or clotrimazole. A steroid lotion can help reduce swelling or itching.

For treatment to be effective, it is important to keep the affected area dry and prevent moisture from forming. 

Doctors may prescribe oral medication for severe cases. 

How do doctors diagnose infections from Candida albicans?

A physical examination is the first step to diagnose a Candida albicans infection.

Your doctor will consider your medical history and talk about your current symptoms. They will ask about any recent medications that may be altering your body’s natural balance of good bacteria. 

To confirm a Candida albicans infection, your doctor may take a tissue sample from the affected area for laboratory testing. A blood test can also confirm the type of species causing the infection. 

Once the doctor diagnoses the infection, they can prescribe appropriate medication for treatment. 

What are possible complications from Candida albicans infections?

Many cases of Candida albicans infections will resolve with antifungal treatment. However, invasive candidiasis is an infection that can spread throughout the body and become potentially life threatening.

Candidemia is the most common invasive candidiasis. It occurs when Candida albicans infects the bloodstream.

In severe cases, invasive Candida albicans infections may lead to the following: 

Getting prompt treatment from your doctor if you have symptoms of a Candida albicans infection can help reduce the risk of complications.

Other frequently asked questions

These are some other questions people often ask about Candida albicans. Darragh O’Carroll, MD, reviewed the answers.

What causes infection from Candida albicans?

Candida albicans infections occur due to an imbalance of a certain type of Candida fungus in the body. Certain risk factors, such as taking antibiotics or having a weakened immune system, can trigger an overgrowth of Candida albicans.

How do I know if I have Candida albicans?

Symptoms of a Candida albicans infection include thick, white discharge for a vaginal infection, white patches in the mouth for an oral infection, and digestive issues for a GI tract infection. Doctors may test tissue samples or perform blood tests to confirm a diagnosis of Candida albicans infection.

What’s the fastest way to get rid of a yeast infection?

The fastest way to treat a yeast infection is by contacting your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. This will likely include a prescription antifungal medication, such as fluconazole. OTC solutions, such as vaginal suppositories that contain miconazole, may be an option for mild yeast infections.

Summary

Candida albicans is part of our natural microorganisms. It grows as yeast and is present in the mouth, vagina, and GI tract.

An overgrowth of Candida albicans may lead to infections, which can affect the skin and cause recurring UTIs. 

Some main causes of a Candida albicans overgrowth include untreated diabetes, taking antibiotics, using oral birth control pills, and consuming high amounts of refined sugars and carbohydrates. 

Treatment for a Candida albicans infection depends on the severity of symptoms and may include OTC suppositories, topical creams, or prescription oral medications.

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Medical Reviewer: Darragh O'Carroll, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Jul 7
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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