Genital Mycotic Infections in Patients With Diabetes

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Paul Nyirjesy, MD; Jack D. Sobel, MD

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Postgraduate Medicine:

Volume 125 No. 3


Clinical Focus

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DOI: 10.3810/pgm.2013.05.2650
Abstract: Patients with diabetes, especially those with poorly controlled glycemia, are prone to developing genital mycotic infections—vulvovaginal candidiasis in women and Candida balanitis in men—the latter almost exclusively in uncircumcised men. Candida albicans is the most common pathogen causing balanitis and is also the dominant cause of vulvovaginal candidiasis in women with diabetes, although Candida glabrata is a prominent pathogen in women with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Candida glabrata is less virulent but also less susceptible to conventional antifungal treatment. High blood glucose levels promote yeast attachment and growth, and also interfere with immune responses in the host. In uncircumcised men, the moist, warm space underneath the foreskin is thought to promote yeast growth, especially when hygiene is poor. Several other risk factors have been identified that predispose to genital mycotic infections, including antibiotic use, corticosteroid use, immunosuppression, atopy, and, in women only, genetics, pregnancy, estrogen/oral contraceptive use, and select sexual behaviors (eg, orogenital sex). In patients with hyperglycemia, risk is increased for not only incident infection but also for recurrence, underscoring the key role of establishing and maintaining euglycemia in the management of genital mycotic infections in patients with diabetes. In addition to blood glucose control, first-line treatment involves either an antifungal cream/ointment (or suppository for women only) that is applied intravaginally by women and directly to the affected area(s) by men, or oral treatment, which infrequently causes systemic side effects. Antifungal treatment should also be offered to sexual partners of patients with diabetes with a genital mycotic infection if the partner is similarly infected. Given high efficacy rates, follow-up test-of-cure after the completion of treatment is generally unnecessary.

Keywords: Candida; vulvovaginal; balanitis; balanoposthitis; diabetes