Candida albicans is responsible for two different types of infections: oral thrush and candidiasis, a yeast infection of the vagina. In some cases, the Candida albicans organisms are opportunists that take advantage of a compromised immune system. In other cases, it's not clear what causes the overgrowth of this naturally occurring organism.
Transmission of Oral Thrush
Because the exact cause of an overgrowth of Candida albicans in the mouth not known, the mode of transmission of oral thrush is also unknown. It is advisable not to have direct mouth-to-mouth contact with someone who has an active oral thrush infection.
Transmission of Vaginal Thrush
The infection of an overgrowth of Candida albicans in the vagina is referred to by four different terms: vaginal thrush, candidiasis, moniliasis and vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC). There have been instances where the Candida albicans infection has been transmitted through direct sexual contact, officially making it a sexually transmitted disease.
Pregnant women who have a vaginal thrush infection when giving birth run the risk of the infant developing oral thrush.
Anything that compromises the immune system's ability to fight off infection, such as immunosuppressive medications and immunosuppressive diseases such as HIV/AIDS as well as antibiotics, steroids, corticosteroid inhalers, chemotherapy and radiation all make a patient more likely to develop a Candida albicans infection.
Chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and cancer may make a patient prone to Candida infections.
The very young and the elderly have higher incidences of oral thrush than other age groups.
The main symptom of oral thrush is a velvety-appearing white coating on the inside of the mouth. If this coating is wiped or scratched off, the tissue underneath will be bright red and may bleed.
Nearly 75 per cent of women will develop vaginal thrush, or vaginal yeast infection, during their lifetime. The main symptom of this common condition is itching. There may also be a thick white vaginal discharge that resembles curdled milk. Pain with intercourse is not uncommon and there may be light bleeding from the vagina.
Candida Albicans and Breastfeeding
Woman who are breastfeeding are at risk for developing a Candida albicans infection of the nipples. This painful condition can easily be passed to the nursing infant. If a Candida albicans infection is suspected, both mother and infant must be treated to avoid recurrence.