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Being obese increases the risk of Candida-related infections.
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More than a third of American adults are obese, reports the National Center for Health Statistics. Obesity increases the risk of a number of medical conditions, including fungal infections due to a type of yeast known as Candida. Candida normally inhabits the membranes that line the mouth and digestive tract. Because all people are exposed to Candida, it is the most frequent cause of fungal infections. Obese people are particularly vulnerable to Candida infections because of factors related to skin integrity, blood sugar levels and possibly, immune system function.
Candida overgrowth, or candidiasis, tends to occur in warm, moist areas. People who are obese are more likely to develop Candida-related skin infections, in part, because they often have skin folds that trap moisture. Obesity is also a risk factor for insulin resistance and diabetes -- both of which increase the risk of candidiasis. Additionally, chronic inflammation due to obesity may affect immune system function, increasing the likelihood of certain infections, as reported in a December 2010 article in the journal "Experimental Biology and Medicine."
Skin rashes caused by Candida are typically red and itchy. White patches on the skin and scaling of the skin may occur as well. Obese people tend to notice that these rashes develop in moist areas, such as under the breasts or in the groin. According to a June 2007 article in "Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology," obesity can also compromise the skin's ability to act as a barrier and prevent infection.
Candida-related skin infections are treated with topical antifungal creams, including econazole and ketoconazole (Ketozole, Xolegel). Use of an antifungal powder, such as nystatin (Nystop powder), to keep the affected area as dry as possible can also speed healing.
Obesity increases the risk of insulin resistance and high blood sugar even among people without overt diabetes. When blood sugar levels are elevated, Candida overgrowth is especially likely to occur in the genitals and bladder. A course of antibiotics to treat a urinary tract infection can also lead to a Candida-related genital infection. Commonly referred to as a yeast infection, symptoms include intense itching and white discharge from the penis or vagina. If Candida leads to a bladder infection, lower abdominal discomfort and an increased urge to urinate may occur.
Miconazole cream (Monistat, Micatin) is often used to address Candida infections involving the genitals. If symptoms persist, an oral drug called fluconazole (Diflucan) may be prescribed. This medication can also be used to treat Candida-related bladder infections. It should not be used during pregnancy.
If you are overweight or obese, keeping skin dry can prevent rashes due to Candida. Promptly change clothes after heavy sweating and use powder to alleviate moisture under the breasts and in the groin. If you have prediabetes or diabetes, keep your blood sugar well-controlled. Even modest a weight loss of 3 to 5 percent of your body weight can significantly decrease blood sugar levels and potentially reduce the risk of Candida infections.