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Candidemia: Systemic Yeast Infection - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention
Systemic Yeast Infection Introduction
Candidemia, also known as candedemia, fungemia and invasive candidiasis, is the most dangerous form of yeast infection.
While it's called candidemia after the most common family of yeasts involved, aspergillus has also been known to cause systemic fungal problems.
Unfortunately, all of these systemic yeast infections are difficult to diagnose directly because the normal blood cultures used to check for infection aren't sensitive to yeasts. They can detect 18,000 different species of bacteria, but really aren't set up to find fungi - yeasts - very well.
Under normal circumstances, a yeast infection isn't much to worry about, but when it develops into a systemic yeast infection it goes from a minor health problem to a potentially fatal one.
So, how do you avoid turning your simple, if miserable yeast infection into full blown systemic yeast infection? That depends on your circumstances, lifestyle and health conditions, but the challenge of a systemic yeast infection can be met.
Systemic Yeast Infection Causes
Systemic yeast infection is most often seen in people who have suppressed or compromised immune systems from a disease or a medication.
People with cancer often suffer from it, as do HIV/AIDS patients.
In addition, people who have intravenous (IV) catheters for a long time are also at risk, as yeast organisms are pervasive throughout the environment.
Newborn children who have other problems during birth are also at high risk for systemic yeast infection.
Most newborns are exposed to yeast on the way out of Mom's birth canal whether Mom has an active yeast infection or not. Yeast organisms are a fairly common resident of the vagina, after all.
If the newborn is premature or has some other problem that causes immune problems, systemic yeast infection can easily result with tragic consequences.
Most newborns with systemic yeast infections don't have a chance.
The two most important risk factors for developing systemic yeast infection are the frequent use of broad-spectrum antibiotics and an active yeast infection.
This often hits AIDS, organ transplant and cancer patients with a triple-whammy, so to speak.
Other risk factors for developing systemic yeast infection
Other risk factors for developing systemic yeast infection include being on regular dialysis, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, lowered intestinal flora, multiple abdominal surgeries, chronic use of steroids and people who have suffered severe burns.
Dialysis, of course, involves multiple IV catheters along with a body that's overloaded with toxins.
Diabetes mellitus interferes with the metabolism and increases blood sugar levels that yeasts love to feed on.
Intestinal flora helps keep yeast organisms in check, while abdominal surgery tends to let those same yeasts out into the bloodstream.
Steroids both interfere with the immune system and also raise blood sugar levels.
Last, people who have severe burns have already compromised the base and heart of the entire immune system, namely the skin.
Systemic Yeast Infection Symptoms
The first and most common set of systemic yeast infection symptoms are those of sepsis.
Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, is a specific set of bodily responses to an invader that's actually managed to get into the bloodstream.
Symptoms of sepsis are a high fever, elevated heart rate, quick breathing, chills, muscle aches, and a seriously elevated white blood cell count.
Doctors will often look for white blood cells in body fluids that are usually sterile, such as urine or cerebrospinal fluid.
The symptoms may range from relatively mild to quite severe, and are generally described as flu-like.
Pain, severe fatigue and mental disorders may accompany those flu symptoms, but certainly aren't necessary.
Of course, candidemia often doesn't stop with producing simple sepsis symptoms.
By the time the systemic yeast infection has gotten bad enough to cause symptoms, there is often sepsis with associated organ dysfunction besides.
Systemic yeast infection can affect any organ in the body, causing it to severely malfunction.
It can even affect the brain, which is why systemic yeast infection can cause mental problems. When the yeasts interfere with brain cognition, many problems can result. If the damage is permanent, so is the physical or mental problem caused by that damage.
On rare occasion, systemic yeast infection can start affecting a major organ before it causes a systemic inflammatory response like sepsis.
If this should happen, then the organ will either cause serious problems in function or just fail completely.
For example, if the yeasts get into the lungs, you'll generally come down with severe pneumonia.
If they invade the liver, well, your liver's probably not doing it's job anymore.
Yeast infections on mucous membranes or skin that are open to the outside of the body are generally pretty mild and not considered a serious health problem.
Yeast infection of any mucous membrane or organ inside the body is absolutely deadly.
Even with optimal medical care at the height of modern medical technology, over forty percent of people with systemic yeast infection die of it.
There is no such thing as a systemic subclinical yeast infection.
If yeast organisms have gotten into the bloodstream enough to produce symptoms, you're going to the emergency room and to the intensive care unit shortly thereafter.
There are quite a few psuedoscience books out there on the market today that propose subclinical systemic yeast infections as the root and cause of many different symptoms such as chronic fatigue, allergic reactions and weight problems.
These books will also often suggest special diets to deal with this supposed subclinical systemic yeast infection.
There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support this claim.
While you should look into problems like chronic fatigue and allergies, and a specific diet may help you, systemic yeast infection is not the problem. You and your doctor should investigate to find the real cause.
Systemic Yeast Infection Treatment and Prevention
There are no home treatments for systemic yeast infection.
It must be diagnosed and treated in a hospital setting due to its lethality.
There are no direct tests for Candida that are effective for diagnosing systemic yeast infection, as yeasts are a normal part of the environment anyway. Instead, a doctor will have to use his or her judgment of your symptoms and risk factors in order to determine whether you have a systemic yeast infection or are having a systemic problem with something else, such as a virus or a bacteria.
The two most common medications for systemic yeast infection are amphotericin B and fluconazole administered through an IV.
Amphotericin B is the most reliable, but it's mildly toxic in and of itself which can be dangerous for people who are already weakened. Because of this, fluconazole is more often used as a first line medication because it's a powerful antifungal that can be put into a liquid, IV suitable form.
A form of IV suitable itraconazole has recently become available that may also work, which is important since some forms of systemic yeast infections are starting to show fluconazole resistance.
In addition to the drugs used to try and eliminate the yeast infection itself, other treatments are often used as support measures for the symptoms of systemic yeast infection.
You'll usually get a treatment of nutrient IV fluids to try and give the body fuel and keep blood pressure up.
If your blood pressure insists on dropping past the point that IV fluids can be used, you may get a treatment of medications that constrict your blood vessels as well. People who need it may also get artificial respiration and dialysis in order to support lungs or kidneys that aren't working.
Most people with systemic yeast infection need preventative treatment for deep vein blood clots, stress ulcers and pressure ulcers besides.
People with systemic yeast infection may also benefit a treatment of tight blood sugar control with insulin even if they aren't diabetic.
Obviously, considering how incredibly dangerous systemic yeast infection is, the best course is to avoid it like the proverbial plague.
If you know you're at risk for it, the best way to avoid systemic yeast infection is to control all local yeast infections when they first pop up and to keep your health up as much as possible.
Manage long term diseases, get a decent diet for your circumstances, get a healthy amount of sleep and make sure to manage your stress levels.
If you're at risk for systemic yeast infection and don't know it, you need to find out as quickly as possible.
You may not have a disease or take medication that alters your immune system, but if you keep getting local yeast infections over and over again you still need to find out why.
Recurrent local yeast infections without a clear cause are a neon sign that something is wrong with your lifestyle or your health.
Don't just treat the local yeast infections over and over until you develop systemic yeast infection, get to the root of the problem and fix it before it's too late.
Systemic Yeast Infection Conclusion
Systemic yeast infection is a deadly disease that often doesn't get the respect and fear it deserves because most people aren't at risk for it.
The vast majority of people who suffer from the occasional yeast infection are also in possession of healthy immune systems that make sure the local yeast doesn't get into the body as a whole.
However, with our high-stress, high-tension society that prescribes more and more broad-spectrum antibiotics every year, systemic yeast infection is a disease we can't afford to ignore.
If you know the risks, dangers and odds, you stand a much better chance of never personally knowing what a systemic yeast infection is like.
References used for Systemic Yeast Infections
Taber's Medical Encyclopedia
Bernhardt, H. E., J. C. Orlando, J. R. Benfield, F. M. Hirose, and R. Y. Foos. 1972. Disseminated candidiasis in surgical patients. Surg. Gynecol. Obstet.
Blumberg, H. M., W. R. Jarvis, R. P. Wenzel, and The NEMIS Study Group. 1998. Risk factors for Candida bloodstream infection in surgical intensive care units: NEMIS prospective multicenter study. 36th Annual Meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Abstract No. 102.
Wey, S. B., M. Mori, M. A. Pfaller, R. F. Woolson, and R. P. Wenzel. 1988. Hospital acquired candidemia: The attributable mortality and excess length of stay. Arch. Intern. Med.
Dellinger RP, Levy MM, Carlet JM, et.al, for the International Surviving Sepsis Campaign Guidelines Committee. (2008). "Surviving Sepsis Campaign: International Guidelines for Management of Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock: 2008". Crit Care Med 36 (1): 296–327.
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