The body normally hosts a variety of germs, including bacteria and fungi. Some of these are useful to the body, some produce no harm or benefit, and some can cause harmful infections.
Some fungal infections are caused by fungi that live on the hair, nails, and outer skin layers. They include mold-like fungi (dermatophytes, which cause tinea infections) and yeast-like fungi (such as Candida).
In cutaneous candidiasis, the skin is infected with Candida fungi. It is fairly common. Infection can involve almost any skin on the body, but most often it occurs in warm, moist, creased areas such as the armpits and groin. The fungus that most often causes cutaneous candidiasis is Candida albicans.
Candida is the most common cause of diaper rash in infants. The fungi take advantage of the warm, moist conditions inside the diaper. Candida infection is particularly common in people with diabetes and in people who are obese. Antibiotics, steroid therapy, and chemotherapy increase the risk of cutaneous candidiasis. Candida can also cause infections of the nails (onychomycosis), at the edge of the nails (paronychia), and at the corners of the mouth (angular cheilitis).
Oral thrush, a form of Candida infection of the moist lining (mucous membranes) of the mouth, is usually associated with taking antibiotics. It may also be a sign of HIV infection or other immunodeficiency disorders when it occurs in adults. Individuals with Candida infections are not usually contagious, though in some settings immunocompromised people can catch the infection.
People with seriously weakened immune systems and cutaneous candidiasis may go on to develop more serious internal Candida infections.
A yeast (candida) infection of the skin can cause intense itching.
Symptoms also include:
Red, growing skin rash
Rash on the skin folds, genitals, middle of the body, buttocks, under the breasts, and other areas of skin
Infection of the hair follicles that may look like pimples
Exams and tests
Your doctor or nurse can usually diagnose this condition by looking at your skin. The health care provider may gently scrape off a sample of skin for testing.
Older children and adults with a yeast skin infection should be tested for diabetes. High sugar levels seen in people with diabetes act as food for the yeast fungus, and help it grow.
Good general health and hygiene is very important for treating candida infections of the skin. Keeping the skin dry and exposed to air is helpful. Drying powders may help prevent fungal infections.
Losing weight may help eliminate the problem if you are overweight.
Proper blood sugar control may also be helpful to those with diabetes.
Antifungal skin creams or ointments may be used to treat a yeast infection of the skin, mouth, or vagina. Antifungal medications taken by mouth may be necessary for for severe candida infections involving the mouth, throat, or vagina.
A yeast infection of the skin sometimes goes away with treatment. Repeat infections are common.
People with very weakened immune systems may develop a serious Candida infection of the bloodstream. This is called invasive candidiasis.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you develop symptoms of cutaneous candidiasis.
Edwards JE Jr. Candida species. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 257.
Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.