If you have diabetes, chances are good you will also have problems with a bacteria known as candida. Why is there a connection? Because every living human has candida in his or her system. Usually the “friendly bacteria” keep the non-friendly candida at bay, but certain factors can allow the candida to flourish — factors that are often brought on by diabetes.
For example, candida is a cause of vaginal yeast infections in women, and while yeast infections are very common, they are even more common among women with diabetes. This is because diabetes impairs the body’s immune system and its ability to fight infections. Candida growths that would be taken care of naturally in non-diabetic people become problematic. Also, high blood sugars (characteristic of diabetes) make the mucous membranes more sugary, which is a perfect environment for yeasts to grow in.
Diabetic women who have candida-caused yeast infections can usually remedy them just about as easily as other women, provided they are properly diagnosed. (Some studies have shown that about one-third of women who diagnosed themselves thought they had a yeast infection when in fact it was something else. Always see a doctor so you can treat the right illness!) Treating a yeast infection often takes longer for diabetic women, though. Usually the 14-day medicinal therapy is necessary to get rid of it for diabetic women, as opposed to a three-day or seven-day program. But it is just as treatable as for non-diabetic women, so the fact that it’s more common shouldn’t be worrisome to you.
Candida causes other conditions besides yeast infections, including many that are common to men, too. (In fact, the vaginal yeast infection is really the only “women-only” condition related to candida.) Candida is a bacteria that can grow into a full-blown fungus, and the entire body is susceptible to it.
For example, oral candidiasis, also known as oral thrush, is a fungal infection in the mouth that manifests itself with white or yellow spots. It occurs more often among diabetics. Antifungal medications, prescribed by your dentist, can take care of it. It’s important for anyone to practice good oral hygiene (brushing, flossing, etc.), but particularly for people with diabetes, since their immune systems are slightly compromised and their blood sugar levels slightly higher, thus creating an environment conducive to candida growth.
So it’s clear that people with diabetes should take extra care to avoid conditions that will lead to trouble with the candida bacteria. But how do you know if you have diabetes? The most common symptoms of type 1 diabetes (the more serious variety) are frequent urination, excessive thirst, and increased appetite. Some patients have blurred vision, fatigue, and irritability, too.
If you suspect you may have diabetes, it’s important to see a doctor right away and be tested for it. Diabetes was once deadly but is now almost always easily treatable — but it does need to be treated. Patients who monitor their blood-sugar levels and take the necessary treatments and precautions usually live normal, healthy lives. They are at greater risk for yeast infections, oral thrush and other candida-caused conditions, but even those can usually be managed.