Candida is a yeast, or fungus, that naturally lives in and on your body. The most prevalent of the more than 20 species of Candida yeast is Candida albicans.
An overgrowth of candida can lead to a fungal infection called candidiasis. The symptoms vary based on the part of the body that’s infected.
Read on the learn about testing and treatment options for candidiasis in the vagina, mouth, throat, and esophagus.
An overgrowth of candida in the vagina is often referred to as a vaginal yeast infection. It’s also known as vaginal candidiasis and candidal vaginitis.
Symptoms of vaginal candidiasis may include:
- irritation and itching in the vagina and vulva
- abnormal vaginal discharge
- discomfort during urination
- discomfort during sexual intercourse
- swelling of the vulva
Many of the symptoms of vaginal candidiasis are similar to other vaginal infections. A laboratory test is typically needed to make a proper diagnosis.
Your doctor will likely take a sample of your vaginal discharge. This will be examined under a microscope or sent to a laboratory, where a fungal culture will be performed.
There are also home testing kits available at your pharmacy or online to test the pH of your vaginal secretions. This can determine the level of acidity.
Most home tests will turn a specific color if acidity is abnormal. If the test indicates that your acidity is normal, a typical response is to rule out bacterial vaginosis and consider treatment for yeast infection.
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If a home test indicates that you have an elevated pH, visit your doctor for further testing and treatment recommendations.
Your doctor may prescribe antifungal medications, such as miconazole, terconazole, or fluconazole. However, pregnant women should not take the oral drug fluconazole.
Candidiasis in the mouth and throat is called oropharyngeal candidiasis, or thrush. Symptoms may include:
- white patches on the throat, tongue, roof of the mouth, or inner cheeks
- loss of taste
- discomfort eating or swallowing
- cottony feeling in mouth
- redness and cracking at the corners of the mouth
A trained medical professional can typically identify thrush visually. However, your doctor or healthcare provider may collect a sample from the throat or mouth and send it to a laboratory for an identification test. The test typically involves examination under a microscope.
Your doctor might also order certain blood tests to determine if the thrush is being caused by an underlying medical condition.
Your doctor will likely recommend topical oral antifungal medication that you can keep in your mouth for a specific period of time.
To diagnose esophageal candidiasis, your doctor might recommend an endoscopy, which uses a light and a camera on a tube to examine your digestive tract.
Your doctor may suggest collecting a sample of your tissue for a biopsy and sending it to a lab to determine the fungi or bacteria causing your symptoms.
Like thrush, your doctor may treat your esophageal candidiasis with a topical oral antifungal medication.
Candida is a natural part of your body’s microbial ecosystem. But when there is an overgrowth, it can cause symptoms and require treatment.
Since the symptoms vary based on the area of the body infected and sometimes mirror the symptoms of other conditions, your healthcare provider will need to perform testing.
If you suspect you may have a fungal infection, home testing for some forms of candidiasis is available. For a full diagnosis and to choose the best treatment plan, schedule an appointment with your doctor.