Definition Oral thrush is a condition in which the fungus Candida albicans accumulates on the lining of the mouth. Oral thrush causes creamy white lesions, usually on the tongue or inner cheeks. The lesions can be painful and may bleed slightly when scraped. Sometimes oral thrush may spread to the roof of the mouth, gums, tonsils or the back of the throat. Although oral thrush can affect anyone, it’s more likely to occur in babies and in those who wear dentures, use inhaled corticosteroids or have compromised immune systems. Oral thrush is a minor problem if you’re healthy, but if you have a weakened immune system, symptoms of oral thrush may be more severe and difficult to control.
Symptoms Children and adults Initially, one may not even notice symptoms of oral thrush. Depending on the underlying cause, signs and symptoms may develop suddenly and persist for a long time. They can include:
- Creamy white lesions on the tongue, inner cheeks and sometimes on the roof of the mouth, gums and tonsil
- Lesions with a cottage cheese-like appearance
- Slight bleeding if the lesions are rubbed or scraped
- Cracking and redness at the corners of your mouth
- A cottony feeling in the mouth
- Loss of taste In severe cases, the lesions may spread downward into the esophagus. If this occurs, one can experience difficulty swallowing or feel as if food is getting stuck in the throaOral thrush and other Candida infections can occur when your immune system is weakened by disease or drugs such as prednisone or inhaled steroids or when antibiotics disturb the natural balance of microorganisms in your body.
Normally your immune system works to repel harmful invading organisms, such as viruses, bacteria and fungi, while maintaining a balance between “good” and “bad” microbes that normally inhabit your body. But sometimes these protective mechanisms fail, which can allow an oral thrush infection to take hold. Oral Thrush
Risk factors Anyone can develop oral thrush, but the infection is more common in some. Risk factors include: • Being an infant • Having a compromised immune system (Immunodeficiency or cancer) • Wearing dentures • Having other health conditions, such as diabetes or anemia • Taking certain medications, such as antibiotics, or oral or inhaled corticosteroids • Undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer • Having conditions that cause dry mouth (xerostomia) • Smoking
Complications Oral thrush is seldom a problem for healthy children and adults, although the infection may return even after it’s been treated. For people with compromised immune systems, thrush can be more serious:
- Thrush is more likely to spread to other parts of your body, including the digestive tract, lungs and liver.
- Especially severe symptoms in the mouth or esophagus, which can make eating painful and difficult
- The infection can spread to the intestines, making it difficult to receive adequate nutrition.
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