Candida is a fungus that is normally present in the mouth, digestive system and skin. Healthy people usually have small amounts present, because their immune systems keep the fungus from reproducing quickly. Sometimes, candida will cause yeast infections in healthy people. Those with immune deficiencies, such as patients with HIV or AIDS, can suffer from severe candida infections, called systemic candidiasis.
Women with systemic candidiasis often suffer from vaginal yeast infections. Symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include itching, swelling, a thick white discharge and painful urination. Healthy women can also get vaginal yeast infections, which are easily cured by over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medications. Women with systemic candidiasis may have yeast infections often, and they may not clear up with treatment.
Mouth and Throat Infections
Yeast infections in the mouth and sometimes the throat are called thrush. Thrush can be identified by white or yellow spots on the mouth or tongue, mouth or throat discomfort or burning, and a distorted sense of taste. Sometimes thrush can be present without any symptoms.
Candida in the throat and esophagus is a severe manifestation of systemic candidiasis. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing, chest pain and nausea. Approximately 20 percent of AIDS patients experience esophageal infection, which can spread through the digestive tract, if not treated promptly.
Yeast infections can affect the skin and fingernails in people with systemic candida. Yeast can thrive in moist areas of the skin, such as armpits, groin, under breasts and under the scrotum. It can also grow around the edges of burns and cuts, or at the site of catheters and other medical equipment. People who wear artificial fingernails, or those whose hands are often wet may suffer from candida infections on their nails. Symptoms include nail pain, cracking and yellowing.
Some patients with severe immune system deficiencies may suffer from candida infections throughout their body. The brain, heart, eyes, kidneys, liver, or joints may be affected. This is a life-threatening condition, and must be treated immediately.