Thursday, 28 January 2016

Caring for my Mother: candida skin infections

I have the idea that this blog should be useful to others in similar circumstances. It would be useful if there was a forum where I could post my musings, but when I look for these things none of them seem to be directed at what I am doing. Be that as it may, I'd like to offer something about a minor medical problem that can affect elderly, immobile people with compromised immune systems.
My mother has some difficulty in washing her hands thoroughly because they are so weak and inflexible, and they are kind of permanently cupped because of her arthritis. Since she became unable to have a shower, she has had to rely on flannel washing of face and hands twice a day, and complete bed-baths twice a week. I kind of did notice that when using the flannel, she doesn’t really get into the pit of her palms or between her fingers, but she also uses hand sanitizer every time she has used the commode, so I had no serious concerns about hygiene. Just after Christmas I did notice there was a pale red patch in the centre of her palms, but it didn’t mean anything to me. Then her right hand swelled up all through the knuckles and became very painful. Her left hand was hurting too, both looking red and inflamed on the backs of the hands and around the knuckles. She called the doctor and described her symptoms, not mentioning anything about a tiny pale pink patch in the palms of each hand - why would she? The doctor said it sounded like a flare-up of her arthritis and prescribed Ibuprofen gel. I wasn't too happy about her using ibuprofen, but complied by applying it all over her knuckles and between her fingers, where she was feeling the pain. Then we noticed that the webs of her fingers had become very red. I was concerned that the ibuprofen gel was causing bruising, as she is on warfarin and it's not recommended for anyone on blood thinners. But she was getting relief from serious pain in her hands by using it, so I carried on with her wishes, by continuing to use it a couple of times a day. The gel was creating a seal on her skin, preventing any air getting to it. The redness got worse and her knuckles continued to be excruciating. Then I noticed a white crusty, damp growth had appeared in the pit of her palms and between her fingers. It looked like a skin infection to me. By then my brother and his wife had come to care for Mother while I took part in a dance show, and bro – being a doctor – confirmed that it looked like an infection. She had an appointment anyway at the local GP's, for a different reason, and my brother asked them to look at her hands. Right away it was diagnosed as some kind of yeast/fungus infection, probably candida, and they took swabs, prescribed a cream and suggested she stop using the ibuprofen gel. She is now using a prescription hand-wash as well as the cream, and slowly the rash is clearing up. Two weeks ago it was terribly painful for her to have the cream applied, but the soreness has abated and now the skin is just rough and dry and broken-looking. I have also now introduced a proper hand-washing session a couple of times a day, where I bring a small basin of warm water for Mum to get her hands right in and really wash in between fingers and into the pit of her palms. While she is using the prescription hand-wash I am using plain warm water, but have also used Citricidal mixed in, or Epsom salts. Citricidal is made from an extract of grapefruit seed, and is used for its anti-fungal and anti-yeast effects.

Epsom salts are just great for aches and pains and also have antiseptic properties. Once the prescription hand-wash is finished I will use the Citricidal.

I have also sent off for a very good product called 'keffir' supplied by the Chuckling Goat, which is a live culture in goat milk, which boosts the immune system and is effective against a wide range of conditions from IBS to skin infections and auto-immune problems. This will take some time to arrive, as they have to wait for the goats to produce their milk and then for the culture to do its thing. I've sent off for a soap and a hand cream by them, as well as the stuff you drink. I will report back on how well that helps when I've had time to try it.

I hope this is helpful 


  1. Dear Cath, I am moved by your vigilance and care, and I think this information will mean a lot to others who find themselves as Elder primary caregivers.