Oral thrush, or oral candidiasis, is an infection of the mouth that is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans, a type of yeast. Yeast is normally present in our mouths, but if there is too much it may cause problems. Yeast infections are also seen in other parts of the body and may cause vaginal infections or diaper rash.
The major symptom of oral thrush is white cottage cheese like lesions on the inside of the mouth. These lesions can be anywhere in the mouth, but are often found on the tongue or inside of the cheeks. The lesions may be very painful. The redness and soreness may make it difficult to eat or swallow. The lesions may also bleed if rubbed too hard. Oral thrush can lead to loss of taste. The infection may spread to the esophagus, the tube which takes food from your mouth to your stomach.
Anyone can have thrush, but it is most often found in babies, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system. Babies may transfer the infection to their mother during breastfeeding. Wearing dentures which do not fit well, smoking or having a condition that causes a dry mouth can increase your chance of developing thrush. Other risk factors include taking antibiotics, oral birth control, or using an inhaler for asthma. Certain medical issues such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, or diabetes not only increase your risk of developing thrush but also increases the risk of developing a systemic candida infection and make thrush more difficult to treat.
Diagnosis is usually made by examining the lesions in the mouth. Blood tests may be performed to determine why thrush occurred. Treatment depends on the age and health of the individual but usually includes antifungal medication. Different medications may be needed if the person has a weakened immune system. Changes in diet may also be recommended. If you or a family member has thrush, talk to a doctor about the most current treatment options.