Oral thrush is a yeast infection caused by the overgrowth of candida albicans, a microscopic yeast-like fungus that is normally found in the mouth, digestive system, and urinary tract of all humans. The usually benign fungus is generally harmless, kept under control by other friendly bacteria.
Sometimes, however, something sends the candida into hyper drive and it begins to multiply rapidly, resulting in an overgrowth of the microorganism. This is where thrush begins.
Thrush is especially common in infants and the elderly. Diabetics and those with diseases that weaken the immune system are also potential candidates for thrush as are people who wear dentures for extended periods.
Symptoms may not be noticed initially, but when the condition worsens, it may seem as if the symptoms appeared very suddenly.
Symptoms of Oral Thrush
Oral thrush can be a painful condition, so painful that eating and swallowing may become difficult. If you look in the mouth of someone who has thrush, you will see whitish yellow patches or streaks on their gums, cheeks, tongue, the roof of their mouth, and maybe even on their tonsils or in their throat.
The patches may almost have a cottage cheese like appearance. Many people with thrush also develop red cracks at the corners of their mouth.
If you try to scrape the whitish patches off the tongue or other affected area, you’ll usually discover that underneath it the surface is red and irritated. It may even bleed slightly after you scrape it. You could experience a cottony feeling in your mouth or a loss of taste.
Thrush can extend into the esophagus as well, making it difficult to swallow or causing it to feel as if food is getting stuck in your throat. This condition is known as Candida esophagitis.
How Should Oral Thrush Be Treated?
In many cases, oral thrush can be successfully treated at home with warm salt-water rinses or the use of antiseptic mouthwashes. Eating yogurt or taking acidophilus supplements may also help return the balance of the microorganisms in the body back to normal and eliminate the problem.
If you consult a physician, he may prescribe antifungal medications such as fluconazole to treat the thrush.
Oral thrush is normally nothing to be alarmed about in infants. You should notify your pediatrician about the symptoms and take his advice. When oral thrush develops in older children or adults, it can indicate an underlying problem such as diabetes or an autoimmune disorder such as HIV.
It is advisable to consult a physician to rule out these underlying conditions or to identify the problem as early as possible.