Yeast Infection Candidal Skin Infection
A yeast infection is usually not serious and is usually easily treated with an antifungal cream.
What is a yeast infection?
Yeast infection is caused by a type of fungus (yeast) called candida. Small numbers of candida normally live on your skin and do no harm. Sometimes, under certain conditions, they can multiply. This causes a yeast infection. The common sites for candida to cause infection are your vagina (vaginal thrush), your mouth (oral thrush) and your skin. This leaflet just deals with yeast infections (candidal skin infections).See the separate leaflets called Vaginal Thrush and Oral Thrush (Yeast Infection) for more details.
Is a yeast infection serious?
Usually not. Most yeast infections occur in people who are otherwise healthy (although they are more common in women, or if you are overweight). Treatment usually works extremely well. In some people, the yeast infection may be the first indication of another condition such as diabetes (diabetes mellitus).
Why does candida sometimes multiply and cause a yeast infection on the skin?
The chance of the candida yeast overgrowing and a yeast infection developing on the skin is more likely in the following situations:
- Areas of skin that are moist or sweaty are ideal for candida to thrive. Therefore, the common sites affected by yeast infections are in the folds of skin in your groin, armpits and under large breasts. (Another name for inflammation within a fold of skin or under a breast is 'intertrigo'. Candidal infection is a common cause of intertrigo.) Nappy rash is sometimes due to yeast infections . Obese people may develop candidal infection between folds of skin. It can also affect skin between your fingers and toes and at the corners of your mouth.
- If you have diabetes (diabetes mellitus).
- If you take a long course of antibiotics or steroid medication.
- If you have a poor immune system. For example, if you have AIDS, or have chemotherapy, or have certain types of serious blood disorder.
What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?
In affected folds of the skin (under breasts, groin, etc) there may be redness and swelling, and a rash may rash. The rash is usually sore and itchy. Small blister-like swellings may develop on the rash. Skin scale can accumulate on the rash to produce a white-yellow, cottage cheese-like substance over the affected area. If the areas between toes or fingers are involved, the affected skin may become thickened, white and soft.
What is the treatment for yeast infection?
An antifungal cream usually clears the infection within a week or two . Yeast infection creams commonly used include:
- Ketoconazole (in adults only, not suitable for use in children).
Can Sudocrem® help with a yeast infection?
Protection of the area with a barrier cream (Bepanthen®, Sudocrem®) is often highly recommended as a first defence.
Sometimes a mild steroid cream is added to reduce inflammation and itch whilst the antifungal cream is working. The most commonly added steroid cream is hydrocortisone. These combination creams are easier to use. A steroid cream should not be used on its own for a fungal skin infection.
Occasionally, if your yeast infection rash is widespread, antifungal tablets called fluconazole are prescribed. These are usually taken once a day for two weeks.
Your doctor may recommend that you wash your skin with a moisturising cream or ointment (emollient) which is more sensitive on your skin than soap products. Certain emollients are useful as soap substitutes in this situation.
Some people with a yeast infection can develop an added infection caused by another type of germ (bacterium). It is important to see your doctor if your skin infection does not improve or if it worsens, as you may need an alternative treatment for a bacterial infection. This is usually a different cream containing an antibiotic, such as fusidic acid. Occasionally antibiotic tablets or medicine may be needed.
Can yeast infections be prevented?
To minimise the risk of a yeast infection:
- Keep areas likely to be affected as clean and dry as possible.
- Always dry well after washing, particularly in your groin, armpits and under large breasts. Some people use a hair dryer to dry these areas after washing to ensure they are dry before putting clothes on.
- Wear light, loose, absorbent clothing and avoid wool and synthetic fibres. This helps to keep your skin from becoming too moist.
- Obesity is a risk factor for yeast infection so losing weight may help.
- Avoid anything wet being in contact with the skin for very long. So, change nappies or incontinence pads as soon as they are wet. If you have been exercising and are in wet, sweaty clothes, change into dry clothes as soon as you can.
- If you are troubled with repeated infections at the angle of your mouth and you wear dentures:
- Remove the dentures each night to clean them.
- Sterilise the dentures overnight.
If the infection keeps coming back for no apparent reason, a test to check for diabetes (diabetes mellitus) may be advised by a doctor.
Further reading and references
Candida; DermNet New Zealand
Candida - skin; NICE CKS, June 2022 (UK access only)
Talapko J, Juzbasic M, Matijevic T, et al; Candida albicans-The Virulence Factors and Clinical Manifestations of Infection. J Fungi (Basel). 2021 Jan 227(2). pii: jof7020079. doi: 10.3390/jof7020079.
Kuhbacher A, Burger-Kentischer A, Rupp S; Interaction of Candida Species with the Skin. Microorganisms. 2017 Jun 75(2). pii: microorganisms5020032. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms5020032.