This is the first article in a four-part series about candida yeast infections.

There's nothing "fun" about fungal infections. Fungi are organisms that can grow in low moisture and low pH environments. Fungi are found everywhere — outdoors on trees, on plants, in the soil, and indoors on various objects. They even grow on our bodies.

We come into contact with fungi constantly, but don't always get sick. However, many people will experience some type of fungal infection in their lifetime.

Types of fungal infections

According to the CDC, there are more than 1.4 million types of fungi, but less than half of these are harmful to humans. The three most common types are tinea versicolor, tinea corporis and candida albicans.

Tinea infections include athlete’s foot, jock itch and ringworm. Candida infections tend to affect the lungs, mouth, urinary tract, esophagus, vagina and digestive tract.

Not all fungal infections are the same, so it's important to know the differences between them. While all types of fungi infections should receive medical care, candida infections deserve extra attention.

Candida types

Candida organisms live in the mouth, gastrointestinal tract and vagina, not causing any problems the majority of the time. Issues arise when there is an imbalance in the acidity or hormones levels.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these forms of candida infections are more common than others:

  • Invasive candidiasis occurs when the candida that lives in the gastrointestinal tract enters the bloodstream and causes an infection. This a serious condition that can affect the blood, heart, brain, eyes, bones or other parts of the body. There are 46,000 cases of healthcare-associated invasive candidiasis that occur each year in the US.
  • Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) or "yeast infection" occurs when there is an overgrowth of the normal yeast in the vagina. It is estimated that 75 percent of all adult women have had at least one yeast infection in their lifetime.
  • Oral candidiasis or thrush occurs when the candida yeast in the mouth or throat becomes imbalanced. It is estimated that 5-7 percent of babies less than one month old develop oral candidiasis.

Home sweet home

For some, knowing that candida lives in and on our bodies may be unsettling, and they want to know how to minimize their chances of getting an infection. In the next installment, we will focus on minimizing candida infections and how our immune systems play a big role in this keeping candida in check.