What is Candida yeast infection?

Candida yeast infection, also known as candidiasis, is a fungal infection caused by overgrowth of the Candida species of yeast, most commonly Candida albicans. Candida is a type of fungus that normally resides in the gastrointestinal tract, mouth, throat, and vagina in small amounts without causing any harm. However, certain factors can disrupt the balance of microorganisms in the body, leading to overgrowth of Candida and subsequent infection.


Candidiasis can manifest in various forms depending on the location of the infection:


  • Oral candidiasis (thrush): Characterized by white patches or plaques on the tongue, inner cheeks, roof of the mouth, and throat. It can cause discomfort, difficulty swallowing, and altered taste sensation.


  • Genital candidiasis: Commonly known as a yeast infection, it affects the vagina in women and the penis in men. Symptoms include itching, burning, redness, swelling, and abnormal vaginal discharge (white, thick, and odorless).


  • Cutaneous candidiasis: Affects the skin and nails, typically occurring in warm, moist areas such as the armpits, groin, between the toes, and under the breasts. It can cause red, itchy rashes with satellite lesions (smaller patches surrounding the main rash) and may lead to skin breakdown and secondary bacterial infections.


  • Invasive candidiasis: Occurs when Candida enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body, potentially causing serious systemic infections. It is more common in individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or undergoing immunosuppressive therapy.


What is the relationship between Candida yeast infection and oxidative stress?

Candida yeast infection can induce oxidative stress in the body through various mechanisms. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body’s ability to detoxify them or repair the resulting damage. Here’s how Candida yeast infection may contribute to oxidative stress:


  • Inflammation: Candida infections trigger an immune response, leading to inflammation at the site of infection. Inflammatory processes often generate ROS as a part of the immune defense mechanism. Chronic inflammation associated with persistent or recurrent candidiasis can result in prolonged oxidative stress.


  • Immune system activation: The host immune system attempts to control Candida overgrowth by activating immune cells, such as neutrophils and macrophages, which release ROS to kill the fungus. However, excessive ROS production can lead to tissue damage and exacerbate oxidative stress.


  • Antifungal treatments: Some antifungal medications used to treat Candida infections may exert their effects through oxidative stress. For example, azole drugs like fluconazole inhibit the synthesis of ergosterol, a crucial component of the fungal cell membrane, leading to ROS accumulation and fungal cell death.


  • Metabolic changes: Candida overgrowth can alter host metabolism, leading to increased production of ROS as a byproduct of cellular metabolism. Additionally, Candida may induce mitochondrial dysfunction in host cells, further contributing to ROS generation.


  • Biofilm formation: Candida species have the ability to form biofilms, complex structures composed of microbial cells embedded in a matrix of extracellular polymeric substances. Biofilms protect Candida from host immune defenses and antimicrobial agents, creating a localized environment conducive to oxidative stress and inflammation.


Overall, oxidative stress induced by Candida yeast infection can exacerbate tissue damage, impair host immune responses, and contribute to the pathogenesis of candidiasis.