Oral Thrush (Candidiasis) – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is oral thrush?
Oral thrush, also called oral candidiasis, is a yeast infection of the tongue and mucous membranes of the mouth. It is not contagious and is a treatable condition.
What causes oral thrush?
Certain germs, including bacteria and fungi, normally live in our mouth. Most of these germs are harmless, but some can cause infection under certain conditions. Oral thrush is caused by the accumulation of fungus Candida albicans in the mouth.
This fungus is mostly kept in check by your immune system and other germs that also live in your mouth. When your immune system is weak or when normal bacteria die, too much of the fungus can grow and cause oral thrush.
Persons with following factors or conditions are at greater risk of getting oral thrush:
- Persons in poor health with the weakened immune system.
- Old age persons and young babies.
- Persons with HIV or AIDS.
- Persons receiving chemotherapy or drugs that weaken the immune system.
- Persons taking steroid medicine, including some inhalers for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Persons with diabetes mellitus with high blood sugar. When blood sugar is high, some of the extra sugar is found in your saliva and acts as food for fungus Candida albicans.
- Persons taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill some of the healthy bacteria that keep Candida albicans from growing too much.
- Persons with ill-fitting dentures.
What are the symptoms of oral thrush?
The following are the symptoms of oral thrush:
- White, velvety sores in the mouth and on the tongue
- Some bleeding when you brush your teeth or scrape the sores
- Pain when swallowing
How is oral thrush diagnosed?
Your doctor or dentist will perform a physical exam of your mouth and review your symptoms. He/she can diagnose oral thrush by simply looking at your mouth and tongue, as the sores are easy to recognize.
Your doctor or dentist may take a sample of a mouth sore by gently scraping it. He/she will examine the sample under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis.
Sometimes, oral thrush can grow in your esophagus as well. The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. If the doctor or dentist suspects oral thrush, he/she may examine your esophagus with an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). A throat culture may also be done to see what germs are causing your thrush infection.
How is oral thrush treated?
Eating yogurt or taking over-the-counter acidophilus pills will help mild oral thrush that occurs after taking antibiotics. This can help restore a healthy balance of germs in your mouth.
Your doctor or dentist may prescribe following medications if the oral thrush is more severe:
- Antifungal mouthwash (nystatin).
- Lozenges (clotrimazole).
- Antifungal pills or syrup, such as fluconazole (Diflucan) or itraconazole (Sporanox).
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.