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Oral Thursh


Thrush is a yeast infection that occurs in your mouth, mainly on your tongue. It causes white patches, or creamy white lesions on your tongue and inner cheeks. These lesions can be painful and have the potential to bleed if they are scraped or broken open. In some cases, thrush will spread to the roof of your mouth, gums, tonsils or the back of your throat.

Thrush is most common in infants and people who wear dentures. People who have weak immune systems and who inhale corticosteroids also suffer from the condition. If you are a healthy person and become infected with thrush, it is easily treated. However, if you have additional problems such as diabetes, thrush can be very difficult to control and get rid of.

Thrush Symptoms

Thrush is a funny condition. It affects people differently, mainly based on their age. Most adults and children experience symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Creamy, white lesions on the tongue and inner cheeks
  • Occasional creamy, white lesions on the roof of your mouth or other areas
  • Lesions that resemble cottage cheese
  • Slight bleeding if lesion is scraped
  • Cotton-mouth or dryness within the mouth
  • Cracking at the corners of the mouth
  • Loss of taste
  • Infants and mothers who are breastfeeding may experience the symptoms listed above, as well as:
  • Infants may have difficulty eating
  • Stabbing pains deep in the breast
  • Shiny or flaky skin around the areolas
  • Pain during nursing that is unusual
  • Painful nipples between feedings

It’s important to know that many times the infant passes the thrush to its mother during breastfeeding. Mother and baby can pass the condition back and forth, nipple to mouth until the thrush is treated.

Thrush Causes

The yeast that causes thrush is known as Candida. Candida is normally found in our mouths and on other mucus membranes. It’s not harmful until the yeast begins to grow uncontrollably and invades the surrounding tissues and becomes infected. There are different forms of Candida including Candida albicans (most common), Candida tropicalis, Candida krusei, Candida parapsilosis, and Candida glabreta.

There are numerous types of bacteria that live in your mouth. These bacteria control the growth of Candida. However, when new bacteria gets into your mouth, the balance of the organisms already there are disrupted and Candida is given the opportunity to grow rapidly. Your health is critical to avoid thrush.

Health conditions and other factors that can lead to thrush include:

  • Weak immune system
  • Infant’s weaker immune systems
  • Senior’s weaker immune systems
  • People with HIV
  • People with diabetes
  • Dry mouth
  • Pregnancy
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Antibiotics
  • Inhaled corticosteroid medications

Thrush Treatment and Prevention

Preventing thrush is easy: stay in good health. It is most common among infants and older adults, but it can and does happen to people of all ages. When it happens to healthy people, thrush is usually not a major issue and is easily treated. The most common way to treat thrush is through antifungal medication. Antifungal medication can be found in topical and swallowed (oral) forms.

Depending on the health of the individual, the severity of the thrush, and the persistence or recurrence of the infection, treatment will vary patient to patient. Generally, treatment lasts 2 weeks, or 14 days for mild to moderate cases. Severe cases may take longer than 14 days to cure the problem.

Treating thrush also means finding out where the infection is coming from and ridding those of your surroundings. For example, if your child has developed thrush you may want to clean all toys, pacifiers, bottles, blankets, clothes, etc. to ensure the thrush is removed. If you have medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer or HIV it’s important to treat those conditions first, to help treat the thrush. Pregnant women who have thrush are usually not given oral antifungal medicine due to the harm it can cause on the fetus. However, in severe cases it may be the only option.

Recurrent Thrush

If you have been suffering from thrush for a long period of time, or have had thrush go away and come back repeatedly, you will need to be treated twice as long as the symptoms last and you may need to try both topical and oral antifungal medications at once. Like with children and their toys, it may be best to do a thorough ‘spring cleaning’ in and around your home, car, work and other areas you spend time.

Page updated February 2011



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