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Chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis (CMC) is an infectious disorder associated with exposure to the yeast Candida albicans (C. albicans), a member of the candida genus, or family. Affecting the mucous membranes and skin, chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis is ordinarily a harmless condition. Individuals with compromised immunity, however, are at greatest risk for recurrent and serious infection. If left untreated, chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis can quickly become life-threatening for someone with impaired immunity. Treatment for chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis generally involves the use of an antifungal medication, immuno-therapy, or a combination of the two.
A diagnosis of mucocutaneous candidiasis is generally made with a visual examination of the affected area. Laboratory testing, including a blood panel and skin culture of the affected area, is performed to confirm a diagnosis. Immunity testing may also be conducted to evaluate the condition of the individual’s immune system, especially if he or she is experiencing pronounced, recurrent infection.
C. albicans is normally considered a harmless yeast. Yet it can be aggressive if given the right conditions to thrive. Individuals with healthy immunity are rarely bothered with candidiasis infection, and if they are the infection is minor and fleeting. Those with compromised immunity are not always so fortunate.
For individuals diagnosed with chronic conditions, such as human papilloma virus (HPV), a simple break in the skin can offer an entry point for the yeast to be introduced into the body. Insufficient immunity offers the perfect condition under which the yeast may thrive, leading to chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis. T cells play a key role in the body’s ability to maintain healthy immunity. Those with deficient T cells, including those with HIV/AIDS, are more likely to experience more serious infection.
Chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis often presents on the hands, nails, and other membranous tissues. For instance, lesions that form under the nails adopt an unnatural green or brown hue, and tissues, such as the cuticle, in the immediate area become inflamed and tender to the touch. When infection affects warmer areas of the body, such as the armpits or groin, irritation can cause itchiness and discomfort. Lesions that form on the head, torso, or limbs can appear stiff and plaque-like. If left untreated, infection can enter the bloodstream or settle in one’s organs causing significant complications.
Treatment for chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis is often multi-faceted in approach. Antifungal medication is given to inhibit further yeast growth and alleviate infection. Individuals with compromised immunity may undergo immuno-therapy to help boost their immunity and make recurrent infection less likely. Topical creams may also be used to ease symptoms, though with chronic presentations of candidiasis, topical creams often have little effect. Those with chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis and existing illness, such as cancer or HPV, are encouraged to take supplemental vitamins, remain hydrated, and consume a healthy diet to further strengthen their immune system.