What is oral thrush?
Oral thrush was also known as oral candidiasis which is a fungal infection of the mouth. It is not contagious and usually successfully treated with antifungal medication. The condition is that the fungus Candida albicans accumulates on the lining of your mouth. Candida is a normal organism in your mouth, but sometimes it can overgrow and cause symptoms.
How common is Oral Thrush?
This Oral Thrush is extremely popular. It commonly affects more on females than males. It can affect patients at any age. This disease can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of oral thrush?
The common symptoms of oral thrush are:
- Creamy white lesions on your tongue, inner cheeks, and sometimes on the roof of your mouth, gums and tonsils.
- Slightly raised lesions with a cottage cheese-like appearance.
- Redness or soreness that may be severe enough to cause difficulty eating or swallowing.
- Slight bleeding if the lesions are rubbed or scraped;
- Cracking and redness at the corners of your mouth (especially in denture wearers);
- A cottony feeling in your mouth;
- Loss of taste.
In severe cases, the lesions may spread downward into your esophagus which is the long, muscular tube stretching from the back of your mouth to your stomach (Candida esophagitis). When this occurs, you may experience difficulty swallowing or feel as if food is getting stuck in your throat.
Initially, you may not even notice symptoms of oral thrush. Depending on the underlying cause, signs and symptoms may develop slowly or suddenly, and they may persist for days, weeks or months.
In addition to the distinctive white mouth lesions, infants may have trouble feeding or be fussy and irritable. They can pass the infection to their mothers during breast-feeding. The infection may then pass back and forth between the mother’s breasts and the baby’s mouth. Women whose breasts are infected with candida may experience these signs and symptoms:
- Unusually red, sensitive, cracked or itchy nipples;
- Shiny or flaky skin on the darker, circular area around the nipple (areola);
- Unusual pain during nursing or painful nipples between feedings;
- Stabbing pains deep within the breast.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes oral thrush?
Normally, your immune system works to repel harmful invasion organisms, such as viruses, bacteria and fungi, while maintaining a balance between “good” and “bad” microbes that normally inhabit your body. However sometimes these protective mechanisms fail, increasing the number of candida fungi and allowing an oral thrush infection to take hold.
Oral thrush and other candida infections can occur when your immune system is weakened by disease or by drugs such as prednisone, or when antibiotics disturb the natural balance of microorganisms in your body.
These diseases and conditions may make you more susceptible to oral thrush infection:
- HIV/AIDS: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) — the virus that causes AIDS — damages or destroys cells of your immune system, making you more susceptible to opportunistic infections that your body would normally resist. Repeated bouts of oral thrush, along with other symptoms, may be early indications of an immune deficiency, such as HIV infection.
- Cancer: If you have cancer, your immune system is likely to be weakened from the disease and from treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. Both the disease and treatments can increase your risk of candida infections such as oral thrush.
- Diabetes mellitus: If you have untreated diabetes or the disease isn’t well-controlled, your saliva may contain large amounts of sugar, which encourages the growth of candida.
- Vaginal yeast infections: Vaginal yeast infections are caused by the same fungus that causes oral thrush. Although a yeast infection isn’t dangerous, if you’re pregnant you can pass the fungus to your baby during delivery. As a result, your newborn may develop oral thrush.
Other causes include:
- Taking a course of antibiotics, particularly over a long period or at a high dose
- Taking inhaled corticosteroid medication for asthma;
- Wearing dentures (false teeth), particularly if they don’t fit properly
- Having poor oral hygiene;
- Having a dry mouth, either because of a medical condition or a medication you are taking.
- Having chemotherapy or radiotherapy to treat cancer.
What increases my risk for oral thrush?
There are many risk factors for Oral Thrush, such as:
- Being an infant or elderly;
- Having a weakened immune system;
- Wearing dentures;
- Having other health conditions, such as diabetes;
- Taking certain medications, such as antibiotics or oral or inhaled corticosteroids;
- Undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer;
- Having conditions that cause dry mouth.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is oral thrush diagnosed?
Your dentist can diagnose thrush by examining your mouth. He or she looks for the distinctive white lesions on your mouth, tongue, or cheeks. Lightly brushing the lesions away reveals a reddened, tender area that may bleed slightly. A microscopic examination of tissue from a lesion can confirm the diagnosis.
Thrush that extends into your esophagus may require other tests to make the diagnosis. Such tests might include:
- Taking a throat culture by swabbing the back of your throat with sterile cotton and studying the microorganisms under a microscope
- Performing an endoscopy of your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine — examining the lining of these body areas with a lighted camera mounted on the tip of a tube passed through these areas)
- Taking X-rays of your esophagus
How is oral thrush treated?
Oral thrush can usually be successfully treated with antifungal medicines. Although tablets or capsules are sometimes used, these usually come in the form of gels or liquid that you apply directly inside your mouth (topical medication). To be noticed that topical medication will usually need to be used several times a day for around 7 to 14 days, and tablet or capsules are usually taken once daily. Although some can cause nausea (feeling sick), vomiting, bloating, abdominal (tummy) pain and diarrhea these medications do not often come up with side effects. Your dentist will have a specific treatment approach designed for you based on your age and the cause of the infection.
If antibiotics or corticosteroids are thought to be causing your oral thrush, the medicine – or the way it is delivered – may need to be changed or the dosage reduced.
The reason is that the presence of candida infection can be a symptom of other medical problems, your dentist may suggest you seek care from a medical doctor as well so that any underlying health problems can be treated.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage oral thrush?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Oral Thrush:
- Follow good oral hygiene practices: Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day.
- Do not overuse mouthwashes or sprays: Use an antibacterial mouthwash once or twice a day to help keep your teeth and gums healthy. More than that may mess with the normal balance of microorganisms in your mouth.
- Taking an appointment with your dentist regularly: Especially if you have diabetes or wear dentures.
- Cutting down the amount of sugar and yeast-containing foods you eat: Foods such as bread, beer, and wine encourage candida growth.
- If you smoke, give it up and by asking your doctor or dentist about ways to help you stop the habit.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: December 2, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
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Oral thrush. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/oral-thrush/basics/definition/con-20022381. Accessed October 10, 2016
Oral thrush in adults. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Oral-thrush---adults/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed October 10, 2016