• Candida
  • Candida

8 causes of candidiasis

Written by: Editors

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What is Candida?

Candida albicans is a fungus, which is a form of yeast, and a very small amount of it lives in our intestines and other moist places in and on the body, such as the mouth, throat, vagina and skin. When overproduced, Candida albicans assumes a thread-like shape and damages the skin or mucous membranes, allowing foreign substances to enter and cause an infection.

The first signs of candidiasis (candida infection) are usually vaginal or rectal itching, or digestive issues such as flatulence, constipation, abdominal cramps and bloating. In a later stage, the fungus may get into the bloodstream, causing the infection to spread to other parts. Candidiasis which has spread to other parts of the body is known as ‘invasive candidiasis'. This only happens rarely and only in people who are ill or have a weak immune system.

What are the symptoms of candidiasis?

Candidiasis can manifest itself through up to 50 different symptoms. However, it’s very rare for someone to have all 50 symptoms. What symptoms you have depends on the site of infection. Some of the symptoms of candidiasis include:

  • Digestive problems such as bloating, increased belly fat, flatulence, constipation, diarrhoea, intolerance to certain foods, acid reflux.
  • Allergies such as hay fever, skin rash, itching or chronic nasal congestion.
  • Sensitive skin/burning sensation, athlete’s foot, fungal infection of the nail or skin, itchy skin, diaper rash.
  • Oral thrush, pain during urination or intercourse, vaginal itching, menstrual problems, PMS.
  • Red, flaky or itchy penis skin, prostate problems, cystitis.
  • Rectal itching, haemorrhoids.
  • Bad breath, dry mouth, oral thrush.
  • Chronic fatigue, increased desire to sleep, sleep problems.

However, many of these symptoms could also be caused by other ailments or infections!

Symptoms of genital candidiasis

Genital candidiasis is much more common in women than men. In women it is called vaginal yeast infection or vaginal thrush. Practically every woman gets vaginal thrush at some point in her life, some women on a regular basis. Thrush in men is much more rare. If you suspect you may have genital candidiasis, there are home tests you can use which provide results within 10 minutes.

Candidiasis is not an STD

Contrary to popular opinion, candidiasis not a sexually transmitted disease (STD). However, it can be passed on during sex. This only happens in rare cases though. Women with vaginal thrush may experience the following symptoms:

  • Itching or irritation in the vagina or vulva.
  • Burning sensation during urination or intercourse.
  • Vaginal pain.
  • Redness and swelling of the vulva.
  • Odourless vaginal discharge, often whitish and thick (cottage cheese-like discharge). The discharge can also be yellow-greenish or brown, or have a different or foul smell.
  • Severe symptoms (although rare), such as severe vaginal redness, swelling or itching, causing tears, sores or blisters in the genital area.

What causes candidiasis?

Candida normally exists in the bowel and is kept in check by a healthy immune system. In certain circumstances, and particularly when the ‘habitat’ of this yeast changes, it can multiply rapidly and spread out of control, upsetting the natural balance of your system. Some of the most common causes of candida overgrowth are caused by:

  • Long-term use of antibiotics.
  • Medicine use.
  • Long-term use of cortisone and other steroids. For example, some people get a candida infection of the mouth (oral thrush) from using inhaled steroids (asthma inhalers).
  • Chronic stress.
  • Weakened immune system due to illness.
  • Excessive intake of processed carbohydrates, fast food, ready-made foods or alcohol.

What causes vaginal thrush?

The reason why some women are more susceptible to vaginal thrush than others is not entirely clear. The natural balance in the vagina can be upset by many different factors. Some of those we know about are:

  1. Pregnancy
    During pregnancy the body produces more oestrogen. This causes temperature and humidity in the vagina area to rise. Yeasts like to live in warm, moist environments.
  2. Hormones
    Oestrogen levels change during a women’s menstrual cycle. This has an effect on the pH level and level of acidity in the vagina. Yeast infections are most likely to act up just before a woman’s menstrual period.
  3. Diabetes
    Do you suffer from uncontrolled diabetes? Women with diabetes whose blood sugar levels are fluctuating have an increased chance of getting vaginal thrush.
  4. Excessive vaginal hygiene
    Scented soap, bubble bath as well as certain kinds of vaginal douches and sprays affect the pH balance of the vagina, causing the yeast fungus to grow out of control.
  5. Vaginal tearing. Intercourse or use of tampons can cause small cuts or tears (fissures) in the vagina, making it easier for the area to become infected.
  6. Incorrect toilet hygiene. By this we mean wiping from back to front, so that bacteria from the gut enter the vagina.
  7. Tight-fitting synthetic underwear. This creates a warm, very moist climate in the vagina, which encourages the growth of Candida albicans.
  8. Birth control pill. Hormonal fluctuations from taking the pill can also cause vaginal thrush.


Candida infections are usually local infections. In some cases, however, the yeast gets into the bloodstream, causing the infection to spread to other parts. We refer to this as invasive candidiasis.

Localised candidiasis

Localised candidiasis and related symptoms are usually relatively easy to recognise. In most cases, your GP will diagnose the infection based on your symptoms. Sometimes a microscopic examination or culture of a sample may be useful in detecting and confirming candidiasis.

Invasive candidiasis

Invasive candidiasis can cause a multitude of symptoms, which can be confused with a host of other ailments. This makes it difficult for a GP to diagnose the infection based on your symptoms alone. Therefore, invasive candidiasis can only be determined unambiguously and with certainty via a blood test.

Treatment of candidiasis

In most cases, candidiasis is treated with antifungal medication. Which variant is prescribed depends on the site of infection.

Candidiasis is not an STD, but it can be passed on through sex. Always keep a close eye on any changes so that you get timely treatment, if necessary.

Sources (n.d.). – Candida Albicans Schimmelinfectie.

Maag Lever Darm Stichting. (n.d.). Maag Lever Darm Stichting.

Medicinfo. (2021, 26 January). Home.

Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu, RIVM. (n.d.). Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu | RIVM.

Thuisarts. (n.d.). Thuisarts | Betrouwbare informatie over ziekte en gezondheid.

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