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Oral Thrush - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

By: peterhutch
Oral candidiasis is an infection of yeast fungi of the genus Candida on the mucous membranes of the mouth. It is frequently caused by Candida albicans, or less commonly by Candida glabrata or Candida tropicalis. Oral thrush may refers to candidiasis in the mouths of babies, while if occurring in the mouth or throat of adults it may also be termed candidosis or moniliasis.

Thrush refers to candida infection of the mouth and oral areas. The term "thrush" is sometimes also used incorrectly to describe a Candida infection of the genital area; see vaginal candiasis or penile candidiasis. Thrush is common in infants, and can arise particularly after a course of antibiotics. Otherwise, oral thrush usually affects only the ill, particularly those with a weakened immune system.


What causes thrush?

Small amounts of the candida fungus are present in the mouth, digestive tract, and skin of most healthy people and are normally kept in check by other bacteria and microorganisms in the body. However, certain illnesses, stress, or medications can disturb the delicate balance, causing the fungus candida to grow out of control, causing infection. Medications that upset the balance of microorganisms in the mouth and may cause thrush include corticosteroids, antibiotics, and birth control pills.

Signs and Symptoms:

Thrush is easily identified as white spots or raised clusters on the surface of the tongue. These patches are often curd-like, and can be found on the roof of the mouth, inside the cheeks and on the back of the throat. Thrush on the tongue can cause dry mouth. When the clusters are coating the throat, swallowing becomes difficult and painful. Some foods, such as carbonated beverages, may aggravate the pain.

The symptoms of oral thrush include clusters of raised, white, patches on the tongue, roof of the mouth and cheeks. When bushing the teeth the white film can be brushed off and the inflamed area may bleed. If this is left untreated it can cause serious problems. Thrush can spread all through the mouth, down the esophagus into the stomach and the lungs. Thrush can cause mouth ulcers and bad breath. People that take antibiotic treatments, such as people with anemia, HIV patients, and people with immune system problems are at a high risk of oral thrush.

The Facts

Oral thrush is a yeast infection of the mouth caused by uncontrolled growth of an organism called Candida albicans. Candida albicans is an organism that normally makes a quiet home for itself on your skin and doesn't bother anyone. We all carry this organism on our skin, in our mouth, in our gastrointestinal tract (gut), and, in the case of women, in the vagina. Occasionally the yeast multiplies uncontrollably, causing pain and inflammation. When this occurs, it is called candidiasis. It is also known as moniliasis or a yeast infection.

Treatment

There are two goals when treating oral thrush in adults. The first is to improve your immune system's ability to function. For example, in diabetics, good control of diabetes may be enough to clear the infection without other treatment. The second is to directly treat the infection. For this purpose, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal mouthwash or lozenges to suck on. These are usually used for 5-10 days. If they don't work, other medication may be prescribed.

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