Rashes Caused by Candida Infections

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by Candida, a yeast. There are over 20 species of Candida yeasts, but the one that most commonly causes infections is called Candida albicans. It’s found in the digestive tract, genital area, and on the surface of your skin.

Thanks to the fungi-fighting bacteria in your body and your immune system, this type of Candida normally doesn’t cause problems. But when it overgrows, it can cause infections and yeast rashes.

When the infection is on your skin, it’s called cutaneous (skin) candidiasis, aka a yeast infection on the skin.

Candida albicans yeast


Kateryna Kon / Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Common Types

Candida yeasts set up residence in a number of different areas of the body, especially those that are warm, dark, and moist. They include:

  • Skin folds, such as under the breasts and buttocks and in the navel
  • In and around the vagina
  • On and around the penis
  • In the mouth and around the outside corners of the lips
  • In the nail beds, particularly toenails that spend a lot of time covered by sweaty socks
  • In the digestive tract

When Candida yeast is allowed to grow unabated, it can cause a number of infections and rashes, including:

Vaginal Yeast Infection

Vaginal yeast infections (vaginal candidiasis) are fairly common, affecting about 1 million women in the United States every year. They are most prevalent in women 20 to 40 years of age.

Symptoms include a red, itchy vagina and vulva (the outer area of the vagina), a burning sensation while urinating, and—in about 10% of cases—an odorless, whitish discharge from the vagina that may look similar to cottage cheese.

Diaper Rash

Along with irritants like stool, urine, and detergents/soaps, yeast can be a common cause of diaper rash.

A yeast diaper rash is bright red and inflamed, often with patches that ooze and weep. It’s commonly bordered by red, raised, pimple-like bumps. It is worse in skin folds that have limited ventilation, such as under the buttocks.

Candidal Paronychia

This is a yeast infection affecting the skin around the fingernails and toenails. When the skin around the nail beds is irritated—because of nail biting, for example—yeast can gain entry and set up residence.

Skin will be red and itchy. Left untreated, this cutaneous candidiasis may break down the cuticle and cause the nail to eventually harden, separate from the skin, and fall off.

Balanitis

Balanitis is an inflammation of the head of the penis and is most common in uncircumcised men and boys. It affects up to 10% of males at some point in their lives.

Most cases of balanitis are caused by yeast. The dark, moist environment under the foreskin of the penis (which is left intact in uncircumcised males) provides the perfect place for Candida to live and multiply.

In addition to inflammation around the tip of the penis, balanitis causes the head of the penis to be itchy and red and can make urinating painful. There may also be a white, smelly discharge from under the foreskin.

Less Common Types

Intertrigo is inflammation of the skin folds, seen where skin rubs against skin, especially in the presence of moisture. This can lead to overgrowth or infection of the area by bacteria or fungus, including Candida. The red rash might be seen in the groin, armpits, under the belly or breasts, buttocks, neck creases, or between the toes.

While the following fungal skin infections are most often caused by dermatophytes (fungi that feed off keratin, the building blocks of skin, hair, and nails), it is possible for an overgrowth of Candida to produce these conditions:

  • Athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis, most commonly appears on the side of the foot and in between the toes. This rash is typically red, scaly, itchy, and burning.
  • Jock itch is an infection common in athletes. It flourishes in people who wear damp, sweaty clothing and in moist locker room environments. It causes a red, raised, scaly, itchy, and oozing rash that can cover the penis, scrotum, inner thighs, and anal area.

Causes and Risk Factors

What makes naturally occurring Candida overgrow and cause a yeast infection on the skin? 

Diabetes

People with diabetes are prone to yeast infections and the rashes that come with them. That’s because yeast thrive on sugar. The higher the sugar content of your urine, sweat, and other secretions, the more opportunity for yeast to flourish on your skin.

Diabetes can also suppress your immune system, making it more likely your body won’t be able to adequately fight off an infection, whether it’s from yeast, bacteria, or a virus. This makes it particularly important to get diabetes under control.

Hormonal Imbalances

The hormone estrogen, which is higher in females, can stimulate the growth of Candida. As such, people who are experiencing surges in estrogen can get more Candida yeast infections, particularly vaginal yeast infections. People with high estrogen levels may include:

Antibiotic Use

In addition to killing off disease-causing bacteria, some antibiotics can also kill off the “good” bacteria that keep yeast levels in check. Taking broad-spectrum antibiotics may increase this risk in some people.

Reducing Your Risk of Candidiasis When Taking Antibiotics

Taking antibiotics may put you at risk of candidiasis because antibiotics kill the bacteria that normally reside on the body. Steps to offset this risk may include:

  • Talk to your doctor. In addition to an antibiotic, your healthcare professional may prescribe an oral antifungal medication to keep yeast in check if you are at increased risk of invasive candidiasis.
  • Keep skin clean and dry.
  • Ask your doctor about using probiotics or eating yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus to help replenish the good bacteria that antibiotics can wipe out. Some small studies have shown promising results.

Compromised Immune System

People with weakened immune systems—because of things like having HIV, undergoing chemotherapy, using certain steroid drugs, or having recently been sick—are at increased risk of candidiasis.

When your body’s immune system isn’t working properly, it can’t properly regulate and fight against invading bacteria and fungi. As a result, yeast may multiply and grow unchecked, causing infections and skin rashes. 

Excess Weight

Besides having an increased risk of diabetes, individuals who are overweight or obese can have more skin folds. These dark and often moist crevices provide the perfect breeding ground for yeast.

Diagnosis

A healthcare professional will examine your skin and ask about your symptoms. A small section of skin may be scraped away (or in the case of a vaginal infection, vaginal fluid will be removed) and examined under a microscope or sent to a lab to be cultured.

Treatment

Treating the yeast infection will, in turn, help treat the yeast rash. Your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter (available without a prescription) antifungal cream, ointment, powder, or suppository (for vaginal yeast).

For more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe stronger antifungals. For candidiasis that occurs in the mouth (thrush), your doctor may recommend an antifungal mouthwash.

Home Remedies

Antifungals are the gold standard when it comes to treating skin yeast infections. But they’re not the only weapon in the arsenal. Some others include:

  • Essential oils: Some research shows that certain essential oils, including mint and lavender, can stop vaginal growth of Candida albicans better than some antifungals (talk to your doctor about the risks before using).
  • Diet: Eat a balanced diet, including not overdoing added sugars in drinks and foods. If you have diabetes, maintain good blood sugar control.
  • Environment: Avoid situations that create hot, moist environments on your skin and skin folds, such as sitting in a hot tub.
  • Refraining from douching: Douches can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina.
  • Coconut oil: At least one study showed that coconut oil has antifungal properties and may be even better than probiotics at reducing levels of Candida albicans.


It’s important to keep using your medicine as directed, even if the rash disappears. Yeast rashes generally clear up in a few days to a few weeks.

One thing you shouldn’t do is use an anti-itch cream containing steroids on the rash. Some of these products can actually make the infection worse. Talk to your healthcare professional first.

Complications

While uncomfortable and sometimes unsightly, most yeast infections of the skin are not serious.

In some cases, however, a Candida infection can get into the body, infecting the bloodstream and bones as well as internal organs, such as the heart and brain. This serious, sometimes life-threatening infection is called invasive, or systemic, candidiasis.

It’s most often seen in people with weakened immune systems and in those who have been hospitalized or who have recently had surgery and other invasive medical procedures, particularly those who:

  • Have been in the intensive care unit
  • Have catheters or receive nourishment through a vein
  • Have received a lot of antibiotics
  • Have had abdominal surgeries
  • Are on hemodialysis (a treatment for filtering waste from the blood)

Get immediate medical help if the rash:

  • Develops suddenly
  • Covers a lot of your body
  • Is painful or blistered
  • Is accompanied by a fever

Prevention

Skin that’s clean and dry is less likely to develop a yeast rash. Other tips for preventing cutaneous candidiasis include:

  • Change socks frequently.
  • Wear breathable shoes.
  • Don’t share shoes, socks, unwashed clothing, or towels. While not typical, a Candida infection can be contagious, especially if you have risk factors.
  • Promptly change out of wet bathing suits or sweaty clothes.
  • Sprinkle a drying powder in skin folds.
  • Keep nails short, and use separate nail clippers for your healthy and unhealthy nails.

A Word From Verywell

Fungi like yeast are all around us. Normally we coexist perfectly well. But under certain situations, the yeast can grow out of control and cause infections.

Most of these skin infections are nothing to be alarmed about—they can be treated effectively with antifungal medications and go away in days to weeks. If you think you have a Candida infection or rash, see your healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Palese E, Nudo M, Zino G, et al. Cutaneous candidiasis caused by Candida albicans in a young non-immunosuppressed patient: an unusual presentation. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2018;32:2058738418781368. doi:10.1177/2058738418781368

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Yeast infections. Updated October 26, 2019.

  3. Baylor Medicine. Vaginitis.

  4. MedlinePlus. Diaper rash. Updated 2019.

  5. American Academy of Family Physicians. Paronychia. Updated 2018.

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Balanitis. Updated November 4, 2019.

  7. American Academy of Family Physicians. Intertrigo. Updated April 15, 2020.

  8. Ely, J. W., Rosenfeld, S., & Seabury Stone, M. (2014). Diagnosis and management of tinea infections. American Family Physician, 90(10), 702–710.

  9. University of Florida Health. Athlete's foot. Updated April 16, 2019.

  10. Rodrigues CF, Rodrigues ME, Henriques M. Candida sp. infections in patients with diabetes mellitusJ Clin Med. 2019;8(1):76. doi:10.3390/jcm8010076

  11. Sobel JD. Patient education: Vaginal yeast infection (beyond the basics). UpToDate. Updated January 25, 2021.

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Invasive candidiasis risk and prevention. Updated November 18, 2020.

  13. Xie HY, Feng D, Wei DM, et al. Probiotics for vulvovaginal candidiasis in non-pregnant women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;11(11):CD010496. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010496.pub2

  14. MedlinePlus. Candida infection of the skin. Updated 2018.

  15. Bona E, Cantamessa S, Pavan M, Novello G, Massa N, Rocchetti A, Berta G, Gamalero E. Sensitivity of Candida albicans to essential oils: are they an alternative to antifungal agents? J Appl Microbiol. 2016;121(6):1530-1545. doi:10.1111/jam.13282

  16. Office on Women's Health. Douching. Updated 2019.

  17. Shino, B, Peedikayil, FC, Jaiprakash, SR, Bijapur, GA, Kottayi, S, Jose, D. Comparison of antimicrobial activity of chlorhexidine, coconut oil, probiotics, and ketoconazole on Candida albicans isolated in children with early childhood caries: an in vitro study. Scientifica. 2016;2016:7061587. doi:10.1155/2016/7061587

  18. Cleveland Clinic. Skin fungus. Updated September 25, 2020

  19. Cortés, JA, Corrales, IF. Invasive candidiasis: epidemiology and risk factors. IntechOpen. 2018. doi:10.5772/intechopen.81813

Additional Reading