What is oral thrush?

Oral thrush is an infection of the mouth caused by a fungal microorganism called Candida albicans. Oral thrush is also known as oral candida and a yeast infection of the mouth. Oral thrush is most common in infants and is generally not a serious condition in healthy adults or infants. However, it can be uncomfortable and lead to difficulties with infant feeding if it does not resolve or is not treated.

Candida albicans normally lives in the mouth in a certain balance with other microorganisms, such as bacteria. However, some factors or conditions may cause an overgrowth of Candida albicans. These include taking antibiotics and having an impaired immune system, as occurs in organ transplant recipients, poorly controlled diabetics, and those living with HIV/AIDS.

Candida albicans can also cause a yeast or thrush infection in the vagina. Left untreated, an infant’s mouth can be exposed to and contract the candida infection during the vaginal birthing process. Candida albicans can also cause an infection in a woman’s nipples, which can then be transmitted to an infant’s mouth during breastfeeding.

Oral thrush is treatable in generally healthy people. However, oral thrush is more likely to occur and can be more difficult to treat in people with weakened immune systems due to such conditions as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or taking steroid medications or chemotherapy. In these cases, complications of oral thrush may become life threatening.

Recurring oral thrush infections can also be a symptom of a serious, undiagnosed underlying disease, such as HIV/AIDS or diabetes. Seek prompt medical care for recurring oral thrush infections.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of oral thrush?

The classic symptoms of oral thrush are yellow-white patchy lesions in the mouth, in the throat, and/or on the tongue. The lesions are raised and may appear as white streaks. The patches may become sore, raw and painful enough that it is difficult to eat and swallow.

In infants, oral thrush symptoms can include mouth, tongue, and throat lesions, as well as:

CAUSES

What causes oral thrush?

Oral thrush is an infection caused by a fungal microorganism called Candida albicans. Candida albicans can also cause a yeast or thrush infection in the vagina, resulting in the exposure of an infant’s mouth to the infection during vaginal birth. Candida albicans can also cause an infection in a woman’s nipples, which can then be transmitted to an infant’s mouth during brea... Read more about oral thrushcauses

TREATMENTS

How is oral thrush treated?

Treatment of oral thrush begins with seeking regular medical care throughout your life. Regular medical care allows your health care professional to assess your risks of developing oral thrush and promptly order diagnostic testing for oral thrush and possible underlying conditions, such as diabetes. These measures greatly increase the chances of diagnosing and treating underlying causes of oral... Read more about oral thrushtreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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