Testing and Diagnosis for Candidiasis

Key points

  • Vaginal candidiasis is diagnosed by testing a sample of vaginal discharge.
  • Candidiasis of the mouth or throat is diagnosed by exam or testing a sample from the infected area.
  • Candidiasis of the esophagus is diagnosed by an endoscopy (a camera is extended down the throat to the digestive tract).
  • Invasive candidiasis is diagnosed with blood tests.
Testing and diagnosis by two lab professionals

Diagnosis and testing

Different types of exams and tests are used to test for different types of candidiasis. Test results are usually returned within a few days.

Vaginal candidiasis (Yeast infections)

Healthcare providers usually diagnose vaginal candidiasis by taking a small sample of vaginal discharge. They examine the sample under a microscope in the medical office or send it to a laboratory for a fungal culture. However, a positive fungal culture does not always mean that Candida is causing symptoms. Some women can have Candida in the vagina without having any symptoms.

Candidiasis of the mouth or throat (Thrush)

Healthcare providers can usually diagnose candidiasis in the mouth or throat simply by looking inside. Sometimes a healthcare provider will take a small sample from the mouth or throat. The sample is sent to a laboratory for testing, usually to be examined under a microscope.

Candidiasis of the esophagus

Healthcare providers usually diagnose candidiasis in the esophagus by doing an endoscopy. An endoscopy is a procedure to examine the digestive tract using a tube with a light and a camera. A healthcare provider might prescribe antifungal medicine without doing an endoscopy to see if the patient's symptoms get better.

Invasive candidiasis

People tend to already be in the hospital when they get invasive candidiasis such as infections of internal organs and bloodstream infections (candidemia). Healthcare providers rely on the patient's medical history, symptoms, physical examinations, and laboratory tests to diagnose invasive candidiasis. The most common way that healthcare providers test for invasive candidiasis is by taking a blood sample or sample from the infected body site and sending it to a laboratory to see if it will grow Candida in a culture.

When to get tested

If you have symptoms of candidiasis, talk to your healthcare provider about testing.

  • Symptoms of vaginal candidiasis are similar to other types of vaginal infections so testing helps determine appropriate treatment.
  • Candidiasis of the mouth, throat, and esophagus mostly affect people with weakened immune systems. Testing and treatment as soon as symptoms start can prevent severe infections.

Invasive candidiasis usually occurs in healthcare settings. Healthcare providers may test patients who develop fever and chills or other symptoms for many types of infections. Invasive candidiasis is diagnosed by laboratory testing of a patient's blood sample.