You probably don’t want to hear this, but your skin is home to thousands of bacteria and fungi.
Most of them live and grow on your skin without causing any problem. However, some can turn out to be infectious and cause an infection like candidiasis of the skin, also known as cutaneous candidiasis.
What Causes Cutaneous Candidiasis?
The problem usually starts when the candida fungus (also referred to as yeast), which resides on the mucous membrane and moist areas of the skin, multiplies rapidly due to favorable conditions, giving rise to a red, itchy rash in the folds of the skin.(2)
The reasons behind the overgrowth of the candida fungus are warm weather, wearing damp or tight clothes, improper drying of the skin, poor hygiene, infrequent undergarment changes, obesity, weakened immunity, use of antibiotics, and use of corticosteroids or other medications that affect the immune system.
Candidiasis of the skin usually isn’t contagious. However, people with weakened immune systems may develop the condition after coming in contact with the skin of an infected person. Those with compromised immune systems such as people with diabetes or HIV infection/AIDS or those using corticosteroids and other drugs are at an increased risk.
Anybody can suffer from this type of skin infection, including babies. In babies, candidiasis of the skin often affects the buttocks, which happens due to the use of diapers.
Signs and Symptoms of Cutaneous Candidiasis
Due to this infection, you may develop red and itchy rashes, often in the folds of the skin. However, the rash may also spread to other areas of the body.(3)
This is the reason why cutaneous candidiasis commonly appears in the armpits, in the groin, between the fingers, and under the breasts. However, the infection may also develop in the nails, edges of the nails, and corners of the mouth.
In some cases, the infection can cause the skin to become cracked and sore, and blisters and pustules may form. Without timely treatment, the infection can spread to other areas of the body.
The symptoms of candidiasis of the skin often resemble other skin problems such as ringworm, hives, herpes, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. Hence, it is important to get a proper diagnosis of the condition before starting the prescribed treatment for candidiasis of the skin.
You can treat candidiasis of the skin with improved hygiene, lifestyle changes, and some simple, yet effective, home remedies.
How to Deal with Cutaneous Candidiasis at Home
Here are some home remedies for cutaneous candidiasis.
1. Nourish Yourself with Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains lauric acid and caprylic acid, which are responsible for its antifungal properties. With these properties, coconut oil helps in combating the yeast-like fungus responsible for candidiasis of the skin.
A 2011 study published in Acupuncture & Electro-Therapeutic Research throws light on the above-mentioned anti-infection properties of caprylic acid.(4)
Furthermore, a 2007 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food reports that coconut oil helped kill species of yeast, including Candida.(5) Another study published in 2016 in Scientifica reports that coconut oil has a significant antifungal activity that is comparable to the antifungal drug ketoconazole.(6)
Coconut oil can be effective in killing the yeast when taken orally in small amounts as well as when applied topically, although more studies are needed to demonstrate this.
- For oral use, add 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin coconut oil to your morning coffee or smoothie each day.
- For topical use, apply warm coconut oil on the affected area and massage gently to allow the oil to penetrate deep into the skin. Do this several times a day.
2. Use Tea Tree Oil Topically
The antifungal properties of tea tree oil can help in the treatment of candidiasis of the skin. Not only does it help in killing the fungi responsible for the condition, but it also helps to soothe the inflamed skin.
A 2006 study published in the Clinical Microbiology Reviews highlights the prized antifungal properties of tea tree oil.(7) Another study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy in 2003 confirmed the therapeutic effectiveness of tea tree oil against fungi, particularly against C. albicans. However, the study was done on animals.(8)
- Dilute 3 to 4 drops of organic tea tree oil in 1 teaspoon of olive oil or sweet almond oil.
- Rub the oil mixture over the affected skin.
- Wait for 30 minutes, and then rinse it off using warm water.
- Do this three or four times a day.
3. Garlic can be Beneficial
Garlic has a number of sulfur-containing compounds that give it natural antifungal properties that help fight candida infections.
- For oral use, eat 2 or 3 cloves of raw garlic daily or along with salads and other preparations.
- For topical use, apply freshly extracted garlic juice on the affected area. Wait for 5 minutes, and then rinse it off with water. Do this two or three times a day. Just be careful-garlic is potent and may cause an irritant or allergic contact dermatitis.
- Alternatively, you can take garlic in the form of supplements or powder. Supplements should be taken only after consulting your physician.
4. A Probiotic Dose of Yogurt
Yogurt, especially Greek or other probiotic yogurt preparations that contain strains of the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus, helps to curb the growth of the candida fungi. The natural, unsweetened, and unflavored variety of yogurt is the most preferred choice, as it helps kill the yeast by producing hydrogen peroxide.
Another 2016 study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases suggests that probiotics can be used as an alternative remedy for the management of candidiasis.(10)
- For oral use, eat 2 to 3 cups of probiotic yogurt daily for a few weeks.
- For topical use, rub some probiotic yogurt on the affected area. Allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, and then rinse it off thoroughly with warm water. Do this once or twice a day for a few days.
5. Curb the Infection with Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar contains enzymes that help restore the body’s pH and eliminate yeast overgrowth.
A 2018 study published in Science Reports concludes that undiluted (or mildly diluted) apple cider vinegar can prevent the growth of candida.(11)
Because high blood sugar contributes to the candida overgrowth, apple cider vinegar can be doubly effective due to its blood sugar-lowering properties, thereby keeping diabetes under control. Also, it is rich in several minerals and nutrients that give your immune system the much-needed boost it requires to fight off this infection.
- For oral use, mix 1 or 2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar into 1 glass of water. Drink this solution two times a day.
- For topical use, mix equal amounts of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and water. Apply it externally on the affected skin. Leave it on for 30 minutes, and then rinse it off with water. Repeat this twice daily.
6. Reap the Benefits of Oregano Oil
Oregano oil, which is rich in the plant compounds carvacrol and thymol, is highly effective against infection-causing fungi. It inhibits the growth of the fungi by dehydrating and thereby killing them.
Oregano oil is also beneficial for your immune system.
- For topical use, mix 3 to 5 drops of oregano essential oil with 1 ounce of either sweet almond oil, warmed coconut oil, or olive oil. Apply this oil blend on the affected area. Wait for 30 minutes, and then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Do this twice daily.
- For oral use, mix 3 drops of oregano oil into 1 glass of water. Drink this twice daily for a few days to 1 week.
7. Give Cinnamon a Go
Cinnamon is also a very effective home staple that finds much use in the treatment of candidiasis of the skin. It has potent antifungal properties that can control the growth of candida.(13)
In a 2013 study published in Brazilian Archives of Biology and Technology, researchers analyzed the antifungal activity of cinnamon essential oil and found that it had acted on the strains of C. albicans, C. tropicalis, and C. krusei. The antifungal activity was mainly due to the phytochemical component eugenol in it.(14)
- For oral use, drink 1 to 2 cups of cinnamon tea daily. To make the tea, add a ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder to 1½ cups of water and boil it for 5 minutes. Strain and drink it. You can also add a little lemon juice.
- For topical use, dilute a few drops of cinnamon oil in 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil. Apply this oil blend on the affected area. Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes, and then rinse it off. Do this once daily for a few days.
8. Topical Use of Boric Acid can Help
Boric acid is an oft-recommended home treatment for recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis due to its powerful antiseptic, antifungal, and antiviral properties. It has shown encouraging results and is found to be effective against both Candida albicans and the more resistant Candida glabrata yeast strains.
- While the topical use of boric acid helps keep vaginal infections at bay, boric acid vaginal suppositories also offer an alternative and inexpensive solution to a recurrent case of vaginal yeast infection, which may otherwise prove resistant to antifungal yeast infection medicines.(15)(16)
9. Keep Your Blood Sugar Level in Check
Yeast feeds off of sugar. If you are diabetic and your blood sugar level is unchecked, you have a greater predisposition for developing yeast infections. The excess of sugar in your body provides the perfect climate and fodder for the candida fungi to thrive.(17)
- Manage your blood sugar level by reducing the amount of sugar in your diet and exercising for 30 minutes at least three times per week.
- Also, follow your doctor’s instructions and take oral medications or insulin as directed.
Preventing Candidiasis of Skin
Maintaining proper hygiene is an essential prerequisite for preventing and treating candidiasis of the skin and controlling the infection.
- Because yeast and fungi flourish in a warm, moist environment, wearing loose-fitting clothing and cotton underwear to allow proper air circulation can be effective in skirting the risk of infection.
- Change out of damp clothing such as wet swimwear or gym clothing as soon as possible.
- Dry your body thoroughly, particularly your genital area, after a bath or shower.
- Change your socks and undergarments regularly.
- Use gentle and scent-free soap on the affected areas, in case of a flare-up.
- Minimize the use of vaginal sprays, perfumes, and lotions, which can irritate the vagina and cause an imbalance of bacteria and yeast.
A healthy immune system is imperative to ward off such infectious threats, as it has the ability to search for and destroy pathogens such as the candida fungi. On the other hand, a sub-par immune system often succumbs to an onslaught of disease-causing fungi.
- You can build your immunity by eating healthy. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds which will provide your body with the nutrients your immune system needs.
- Also, get enough sleep, manage your stress, avoid smoking, drink less alcohol, and exercise regularly to boost your immunity.
When to See a Doctor
While home remedies and lifestyle changes can resolve many cases of candidiasis of the skin, it is important to seek medical treatment if there are fissures or sores on the affected area, infections are recurrent, and you are suffering from underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or a compromised immune system.
- You can also consider taking probiotic supplements as a natural solution to candida infection. Always consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
- Eat more cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts. They are rich in isothiocyanates that target yeast.
- Take antibiotics only when necessary, as these upset the body’s balance of bacteria and yeast.
- Get plenty of rest to make it easier for your body to fight infections.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Faheem Latheef, MBChB, MRCP (Dermatologist)
What possible complications can arise if the candidiasis is left untreated?
Most cases of cutaneous (skin) candidiasis resolve swiftly with treatment, and most people make a full recovery without complications. However, if left untreated, the condition can become more serious, especially in people with compromised immunity.
Anything from HIV infection (AIDS) to diabetes or treatment with immunosuppressant medications for cancer and organ transplants can significantly weaken your immune system and put you at a greater risk of potential complications.
Invasive candidiasis refers to the spread of candida through the bloodstream (candidemia) and potential infection at distant sites such as the heart, brain, eyes, bones, and other tissues, which can then become life-threatening.
It is therefore of utmost importance that high-risk patients with any of the above-mentioned conditions keep a close eye out for any signs of infection and seek prompt medical attention to prevent these complications from arising.
How long does it take for candidiasis to resolve without any medication?
If treated in a timely and appropriate manner, most cases of cutaneous candidiasis typically resolve within a couple of weeks.
However, the success of the treatment is conditional on a number of factors including the severity of the infection and the site affected, the extent of coverage, associated medical conditions as well as medications that the patient may already be on.
Without prescription treatment, recovery is still possible but can take anywhere from a few weeks to longer depending on the severity of the infection. That said, this would not be a recommended approach as cutaneous candidiasis could result in complications if left untreated.
It is also important to have the diagnosis confirmed first as the condition can often be mistaken for other ailments that can be present in a similar fashion.
Can candida sores and rashes leave permanent marks on the body?
With early treatment, most cases of cutaneous candidiasis typically resolve without leaving any permanent marks on the body.
However, with chronic untreated infection, as with most chronic skin conditions, patients can be left with post-inflammatory hypopigmentation (pale marks), hyperpigmentation (dark marks) or redness (erythema). These can sometimes take over 18 months to clear unless the inflammation is treated.
As candidiasis can be itchy, one can also do damage to the skin by persistently scratching the affected area of the skin. This can very rarely lead to an abnormal scarring reaction called a keloid scar, most commonly seen on the upper trunk which can become permanent if not treated.
Are women more prone to candida infections than men?
Women are generally considered to be more prone to candida infection than men. Nearly 75% of women get oral thrush at some point in their life. However, in terms of the gender-related susceptibility of cutaneous candidiasis, this is less straightforward.
Pregnant women, in particular, are at a greater risk of developing this condition. At the same time, men, in general, are more prone to diabetes which is recognized as a contributing factor for candidiasis, thereby increasing their risk for the condition by association.
A 2006 study from Germany, for instance, showed a higher prevalence of intertrigo/anal candidiasis in males when compared to females.
Cutaneous candidiasis is, as a rule, more common in diabetic obese individuals residing in hot and humid climates and in bed-ridden or elderly subjects, regardless of their gender.
How can we keep candidiasis from recurring?
The main way to keep candidiasis from recurring is to take actions to minimize the conditions in which candidiasis can flourish, namely – moisture and sweat.
Try to wear clothing that stops moisture from collecting on the body (dri-FIT, loose-fitting clothes), aim to keep your armpits, groin area, and other areas that are prone to infection clean and dry. Shower and dry yourself thoroughly after sweat-inducing activities and change your socks and underwear regularly.
If you are overweight or obese, make sure to properly dry your skin folds. It also goes without saying that losing any excess weight will help reduce the risk of recurrence. Strict sugar control is essential for people with diabetes, more so if they wish to prevent a recurrence of candidiasis.
Are there any food items that can mitigate or aggravate candidiasis symptoms?
The link between foods and cutaneous candidiasis is controversial and the evidence does not support the commonly held belief that high sugar and carbohydrate foods can cause cutaneous candidiasis on their own.
However, diabetes does make it more likely and so does having iron or vitamin deficiencies as these can affect how well your immune system can clear the infection. Generally keeping healthy and having a well-balanced diet is likely to help reduce the chance of getting candidiasis.
Please provide some additional tips or inputs regarding candida infection.
As observed in clinical practice, one of the most common entry points for candidiasis infections into the body is through the feet.
One useful tip is to ensure you always wear slippers when you are poolside or in the gym locker rooms to avoid picking up the infection-causing fungus.
Good foot care is even more pivotal for diabetes patients, who are required to visit their podiatrist regularly and get an annual diabetic foot check.
About Dr. Faheem Latheef, MBChB, MRCP (Dermatology), FRCP (London): Dr. Latheef is one of the UK’s leading and most highly reviewed Dermatologists based at Europe’s largest teaching hospital in Leeds.
Dr. Latheef is a Cutaneous Allergy specialist and, in his practice, he sees both children and adults for a wide variety of skin-related conditions including running a dedicated Acne, Skin Cancer, Skin Surgery, Allergy as well as General Dermatology clinic.
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