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Yeast infection is most often caused by a species of the yeast Candida, most commonly Candida albicans, thus it is often referred to as candidiasis. Candida is a common cause of vaginal infections in women, and Candida may cause mouth infections in people with reduced immune function, or in patients taking certain antibiotics. Candida can be found in virtually all normal people, but causes problems in only a fraction. In recent years, however, several serious categories of candidiasis have become more common, due to the increased use of antibiotics, the rise of AIDS, the increase in the number of organ transplantations, and the use of invasive devices (catheters, artificial joints and valves)—all of which increase a patient's susceptibility to infection.
Although most cases of vaginal candidiasis are cured reliably, these infections can recur. To limit recurrences, women may need to take a prescription antifungal drug such as terconazole (sold as Terazol), or take other antifungal drugs on a preventive basis.
These infections can also recur, sometimes because the infecting Candida develops resistance to one drug. Therefore, a physician may need to prescribe a different drug.
The prognosis depends on the category of disease, as well as the condition of the patient when the infection strikes. Patients who are already suffering from a serious underlying disease are more susceptible to deep organ candidiasis that spreads throughout the body.
Often clinical appearance gives a strong suggestion about the diagnosis. Generally, a clinician will take a sample of the vaginal discharge or swab an area of oral plaque, and then inspect this material under a microscope. Under the microscope, it is possible to see characteristic forms of yeasts at various stages in the life cycle.
Fungal blood cultures should be taken for patients suspected of having deep organ candidiasis. Tissue biopsy may be required for a definitive diagnosis.
Author Info: Kathleen D. Wright, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2005
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