Oral thrush, also called oral candidiasis, is an infection of the mouth caused by the candida albicans fungus – better known by its common name of yeast. Besides the mouth, the same fungus can cause vaginal yeast infections in women and diaper rash in infants. Oral thrush is most commonly seen in older adults, babies and toddlers, patients who use steroid sprays to treat asthma, and those with weakened immune systems due to other conditions like HIV, cancer, and diabetes.
The fungus is always present in small amounts within the mouth, skin, and digestive tract of healthy individuals and is normally kept under control by other microorganisms and bacteria. Events such as stress, illness, and the use of medications like birth control pills and corticosteroids can occasionally disrupt that balance in such a way that the candida fungus is allowed to grow unchecked, which leads to the development of oral thrush.
Symptoms of oral thrush can develop slowly or set in without warning, and they can last for only a few days or several months. The most common complaint from patients is white sores on the inner cheeks or tongue that resemble cottage cheese. Other common symptoms include:
In severe cases, lesions can work their way into the esophagus. This can result of a constant feeling of food stuck in the throat. Infants with the condition may become irritable and fussy or have difficulty feeding. The infection can be passed back and forth between mothers and their children while breastfeeding.
The goal of treatments for oral thrush is to stop the infection from spreading. To do this, patients are often prescribed about two weeks’ worth of antifungal medications. Improved dental hygiene habits can improve the condition and help prevent future occurrences.