Candida is a genus of yeasts that live naturally in and on the body. It’s typically found in small amounts in the mouth and intestines and on the skin.
Normally, Candida doesn’t cause any issues, but in some cases it can lead to infection.
Read on to learn more about the different types of Candida fungal infections, often simply called a yeast infection, especially ones caused by Candida glabrata.
Candida glabrata (C. glabrata) can be found as a part of your natural microflora. It may be present in the GI tract, the mouth, and the genital area.
Candida glabrata is typically well-controlled, or harmless, in healthy people. But it can become a problem in people with a suppressed immune system. For example, this includes people who are living with HIV, people who are receiving cancer treatments, and people who have received an organ transplant.
Candida glabrata also has a high resistance to some antifungal medications, which can make it hard to treat.
Candida fungal infections
Important fungal infection terms
Candidiasis is the term for an infection from Candida yeast.
Invasive candidiasis is an infection inside your body. It can impact internal organs or other parts of your body.
Fungemia is the presence of yeast or fungus in the bloodstream. The most common type of this infection is Candidemia, when Candida yeast is in the bloodstream. This is the most common type of invasive candidiasis,
Acute hematogenous candidiasis is a Candida infection that spreads through your bloodstream to other organs of your body. For example, spread of Candida through your bloodstream and into your brain can lead to meningitis.
Next we’ll look at causes, symptoms, and treatment of the most common types of Candida infection. While Candida albicans is most often involved, it’s possible for Candida glabrata to cause these types of infections since it can be found in similar areas of the body.
Candida glabrata infections are most likely to affect:
- the urinary tract, which runs from the urethra to the bladder and the kidneys
- the genitals
- the mouth
- the bloodstream, in the case of specific at-risk groups
Fungal urinary tract infections (UTIs) are most commonly caused by species of Candida yeast. Fungal UTIs can affect the lower part of the urinary tract, including the bladder. It can even affect the kidneys.
Fungal UTI symptoms
If you have a fungal UTI, you may not have any symptoms. When symptoms are present, they can include:
- a burning or painful sensation when urinating
- an increased need to urinate
- blood in the urine
- pelvic or abdominal pain
Fungal UTI treatment
Treatment is only recommended for people who are showing symptoms. It typically consists of prescription antifungal drugs. In many cases, the antifungal medication fluconazole is the first treatment.
For Candida glabrata and other species that may be resistant to fluconazole, the drugs amphotericin B and flucytosine might be used.
Normally, the amount of Candida in the genital area is balanced out by the bacteria Lactobacillus. Lactobacillus is also naturally occurring in this part of the body. When Lactobacillus levels are changed or lowered in some way, Candida can overgrow, causing an infection.
You can also develop a Candida genital infection after certain sexual activities, especially those involving oral-genital contact.
Fungal genital infection symptoms
Symptoms of a genital fungal infection can include:
- a burning sensation during sex
- a burning sensation while urinating
- a rash around the vagina
- a white, cheesy substance underneath skinfolds on the penis
- abnormal vaginal discharge that can be either watery or thick and white
- an itchy or painful feeling in or outside the vagina or on the penis
- rash, redness, or swelling around the vagina
However, in some cases Candida infections on the penis may cause no symptoms at all.
Fungal genital infection treatments
Using an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription antifungal medication can effectively treat mild or moderate genital fungal infections.
OTC antifungals most often come in these forms:
Oral antifungal medications are also available by prescription.
A doctor might prescribe a longer course of medication for more complicated infections. This could be in the form of a cream, pill, or ointment.
Despite being a normal part of the microflora of your mouth, Candida can cause infections if it overgrows.
The infection may not be limited to just your mouth. Oral thrush can spread to your tonsils and the back of your throat. Severe infections may spread to the esophagus.
Common symptoms of oral thrush can include:
- a burning or painful sensation in the mouth
- a cotton-like feeling inside of the mouth
- difficulty swallowing or eating
- loss of taste
- redness at the corners of the mouth or inside the mouth
- creamy white spots in the mouth or on the tongue that might bleed when touched
Untreated oral thrush can lead to a systemic fungal infection, especially in people with a weakened immune system.
Oral thrush is treated with an antifungal medication that can come in the form of a pill, liquid, or lozenge. Examples of drugs that are used include nystatin or clotrimazole. An oral course of fluconazole can be given for some cases.
Although healthy people can get yeast infections, the following groups are at an increased risk for developing a Candida glabrata infection:
- people taking or who have recently taken antibiotics
- people with diabetes who have blood sugar levels that are not well-controlled
- people who have had a medical device, like a catheter, inserted
- people who wear dentures
- people with a weakened immune system, such as people living with HIV or people who are receiving treatment for cancer
The incidence of Candida glabrata infections has been increasing over the years.
Interestingly, Candida glabrata is more closely genetically related to baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) than it is to Candida albicans or Candida parapsilosis. Most yeast species that are closely related to Candida glabrata aren’t associated with humans, but are instead found in plants and soil.
Candida glabrata vs. Candida albicans
Candida glabrata differs from Candida albicans in many ways, including:
- having a higher resistance to some antifungal drugs, such as fluconazole
- an inability to form hyphae, a long branching structure produced by many fungi
- an ability to grow and divide after being eaten by immune cells called macrophages
- having many genes that don’t have a corresponding equivalent in Candida albicans
Candida glabrata infections are often acquired in hospitals, particularly in people who are being treated with fluconazole, which it can be more resistant to.
Candida glabrata can be involved in the same types of fungal infections as the most common Candida species. While the incidence of Candida glabrata infections has increased over the years, people with healthy immune systems are the least likely to experience this infection.
Practicing good hygiene may make the biggest difference in prevention.