Oral thrush is an infection of yeast fungus, Candida albicans, in the mucous membranes of the mouth. Strictly speaking, thrush is only a temporary candida infection in the oral cavity of babies. However, we have for this purpose expanded the term to include candida infections occurring in the mouth and throat of adults, also known as candidiasis or moniliasis.
Thrush infections are common in people who have high blood sugar. Oral thrush may also be a side effect of antibiotic treatment, since antibiotics kill off good bacteria as well as infection, resulting in an imbalance in the body’s naturally occurring flora. Thrush is also common in people who suffer from anemia or have hormone related disorders.
Thrush usually develops suddenly, but it may become chronic, persisting over a long period of time. A common sign of thrush is the presence of creamy white, slightly raised lesions in your mouth—usually on your tongue or inner cheeks—but also sometimes on the roof of your mouth, gums, tonsils, or back of your throat. The lesions, which may have a “cottage cheese” appearance, can be painful and may bleed slightly when you scrape them or brush your teeth.
Two specific causes of oral thrush are a reaction to antibiotics and transmission from a mother with a yeast infection. The mouth of a postnatal baby undergoes certain changes following a dose of antibiotic medication that create a breeding ground for a fungus to develop. It is also possible for a mother to pass on a yeast infection to her child in the form of candidosis. The transmission occurs from exposure in the birth canal and oftentimes results in infection when the baby is from two to ten weeks old.
Diagnosing Oral Thrush
To make a diagnosis your doctor will ask about your diet and recent use of antibiotics or medications that can weaken the immune system. The doctor will also take into consideration any history of diabetes, cancer, HIV or other chronic diseases. Candidiasis is easy to identify. The yeast can be seen under a microscope after being scraped off the affected area. However, since yeast is normally there anyway, your doctor will want to be sure that it’s candida causing the problem and not something else.
Tablets that contain drugs such as fluconazole and itraconazole will usually clear fungus and thrush infections from the body. These tend to be used in more severe or serious cases. For example, for people with a poor immune system who develop extensive oral thrush.
Oral candidiasis can be treated with topical anti-fungal drugs, such as nystatin (mycostatin), miconazole or amphotericin B. Patients who are immunocompromised, either with HIV/AIDS or as a result of chemotherapy, may require systemic treatment with oral or intravenous administered anti-fungals.
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. Oral thrush may also effect people with thyroid problems and diabetes. Infants are at very high risk of getting oral thrush because they lack the protective bacteria that is needed to control the yeast. This protective bacterium is obtained by time through the exposure to the environment. It oral thrush occurs it will be difficult to eat, due to the sores in the mouth. It is recommended to drink plenty of liquids, this will aid in any dehydration.