Oral thrush which is also called oral candidiasis, is a condition in which the fungus Candida albicans accumulates on the lining of your mouth. Although this fungus is a normal organism found in your mouth, it can sometimes overgrow and cause symptoms. The same fungus that causes oral candidiasis can also cause yeast infections in other parts of your body especially in females leading to vaginal candidiasis.
Oral thrush looks like creamy white lesions, usually on your tongue or inner cheek which may sometimes spread to the roof of your mouth, gums, tonsils, or the back of your throat. It does not usually cause any serious problems for most people but can however, pose a problem for people with a weakened immune system, whose signs and symptoms may be much more severe. This mouth condition is treatable and most people respond well to treatment. However, oral thrush tends to reappear, especially if the cause of the problem is not properly addressed.
Types of oral thrush
Oral candidiasis is sometimes divided into three groups based on appearance, although the condition can sometimes sit between categories:
- Pseudomembranous: This is the classic and most common version of oral thrush.
- Erythematous (atrophic): This version appears red raw rather than white.
- Hyperplastic: This is also referred to as “plaque-like candidiasis” or “nodular candidiasis” due to the presence of a hard to remove solid white plaque. It is the least common variant and most often seen in patients with HIV.
Symptoms of oral thrush
In its early stages, oral thrush may not cause any symptoms. But as the infection gets worse, one or more of the following symptoms may develop:
- White or yellow patches of bumps on your inner cheeks, tongue, tonsils, gums, or lips.
- Slight bleeding if the bumps are scraped.
- Soreness or burning in your mouth.
- A cotton-like sensation in your mouth.
- Dry, cracked skin at the corners of your mouth.
- Difficulty eating and drinking (swallowing).
- Unpleasant taste in your mouth.
- Loss of taste.
- Fever, if the infection spreads beyond the esophagus.
The symptoms of oral candidiasis in babies includes nappy rash and refusal to feed. In addition, babies who have oral thrush can pass the fungus to the nipples through breastfeeding.
What Are The Things That Can Cause You Oral Thrush?
The candida fungus is a normal part of the microorganisms in your mouth, digestive tract, and skin which is kept under control by the other bacteria in your body. But sometimes, certain illnesses or medications, like corticosteroids or antibiotics, can disturb the balance making the fungus to grow out of control. When this happens in your mouth, you develop the condition known as thrush.
Stress is also another risk factor for developing oral candidiasis, as well as a number of other medical condition like uncontrolled diabetes, HIV infection and cancer. Other factors that increases the risk of getting oral thrush include :
- Wearing unfitted dentures.
- Excessive use of mouth wash.
- Weakened immune system.
- Xerostomia (dry mouth).
- Malnutrition, especially iron, vitamin B12 and Folic acid deficiencies.
If you have oral thrush, it’s possible to pass the fungus that causes this condition on to someone else if you kiss them. In some cases, that person might develop oral thrush.
Diagnosing Oral Candidiasis
Diagnosis of thrush depends on the location and identifying whether there is an underlying cause. If thrush is limited to your mouth to diagnose oral thrush, your doctor or dentist may:
- Examine your mouth to look at the lesions.
- Take a small scraping of the lesions to examine under a microscope.
- If needed, do a physical exam and certain blood tests to identify any possible underlying medical condition that may be the cause of oral thrush.
If thrush is in your esophagus to help diagnose thrush in your esophagus, your doctor may recommend any or all of these:
- Biopsy: The tissue sample is cultured on a special medium to help determine which bacteria or fungi, if any, are causing your symptoms.
- Endoscopic exam: In this procedure, your doctor examines your esophagus, stomach and upper part of your small intestine (duodenum) using a lighted, flexible tube with a camera on the tip (endoscope).
- Physical exam: If needed, a physical exam and certain blood tests may be done to try to identify any possible underlying medical condition that could cause thrush in the esophagus.
Preventive measures/Home remedies for oral thrush
Alongside medical treatment, the following can help reduce the risk of worsening the condition:
- Practice good oral hygiene.
- Get regular dental checkups.
- Treat chronic health issues.
- Clean inhalers after using them.
- Limit foods that contain sugar and yeast.
- Rinse mouth with salt water.
- Use a soft toothbrush to avoid scraping the lesions.
- Use a new toothbrush every day until the infection has gone.
- Eat unsweetened yogurt to restore healthy bacteria levels.
- Do not use mouthwashes or sprays unless your doctor prescribes it.
- A solution of water and baking soda or water and lemon juice or water and apple cider vinegar can be helpful.
- If you smoke, quit.
To treat oral thrush, your doctor may prescribe one or more anti fungal medications like Fluconazole (Diflucan), Clotrimazole (Mycelex Troche), Nystatin (Nystop, Nyata), Itraconazole (Sporanox) and Amphotericin B (AmBisome, Fungizone) for you or your baby.
Once you begin treatment, oral thrush usually goes away within a couple of weeks. But in some cases, it can return. Infants may have several episodes of oral thrush in their first year of life.
- WebMD : what is thrush?
- Medical News Today : oral thrush
- Health Line : causes of thrush
- Mayo Clinic : oral thrush