Guide to Oral Thrush

Overview
Oral thrush, also known as candidiasis or moniliasis, is an infectious condition of the mouth caused by the yeast fungus, Candida Albicans. This fungus affects the mucous membranes or lining of the mouth. The infection can cause white lesions on the inside of your cheek or on your tongue, and in some cases, these lesions may spread to the gums, the back of the throat or the roof of the mouth.  Oral thrush is seen most often in babies and toddlers, and people with weak immune systems.

Symptoms

  • The most common symptoms of oral thrush include white spots on the tongue and mouth, which may combine to create larger spots.
  • These spots when wiped off may reveal inflamed tissue underneath, although there generally is no pain.
  • Thrush can cause burning in the throat and mouth.
  • In extreme cases, the lesions can spread into your esophagus, causing a condition called Candida esophagitis. The person may find it difficult to swallow.

All healthy infants develop oral thrush symptoms within the first few weeks. They may become fussy and refuse to feed.  They can even transmit the infection to the mother while feeding. When breasts are infected with oral thrush, the skin around the areola may become flaky. The nipples may become sensitive, and there may be pain during nursing.

 

Causes
Oral thrush infections are caused because of a sudden increase in the amount of fungus in the mouth. Everybody has some amount of fungus and other microorganisms present in their mouth, and these are actually good for you as long there is a balance. Once there is an alteration in the chemistry of the mouth that promotes the growth of Candida over other micro-organisms, it creates ripe conditions for an oral thrush infection.

  • These conditions can take the form of medications like certain antibiotics or chemotherapy, which can alter the chemical composition of the mouth as a side effect.
  • Health conditions like malnutrition, diabetes and AIDS can also affect your immune system thereby leading to the over production of yeast. Oral thrush is one of the earliest symptoms of AIDS. 
  • Drug use can also affect the chemical composition of the mouth.
  • Vaginal yeast infections during pregnancy can pass to the new born baby during child birth. This may lead to the development of oral thrush in the infant within the first few weeks.
  • People who wear ill fitting dentures may sustain injuries to the mucous membranes, and these injuries can break the skin, providing an entrance for Candida.

Diagnosis

  • Your dentist can diagnose oral thrush simply by inspecting your mouth, and identifying the lesions.
  • In some cases however, microscopic screening of samples may be necessary to confirm the presence of candidiasis.
  • In the case of thrush that spreads into the esophagus, your doctor may recommend tests to confirm. He may ask for a throat culture, in which a tissue sample from the back of the throat is collected and screened to determine the kind of fungi or bacteria that are responsible for the condition.
  • Your doctor may also recommend an endoscopy to examine the stomach and esophagus.
  • You may also be required to swallow glasses of barium. This flavored liquid can be drunk easily, and as it flows into your stomach through your esophagus, X-Rays are taken.

 

Complications
Oral thrush is generally not a severe health problem, although it can recur frequently. People suffering from HIV infection may notice severe symptoms, including difficulty in eating and swallowing.  If the infection manages to extend to the intestines, there may be digestive problems which can lead to poor nutritional absorption. In people with weak immune systems, thrush can quickly spread all over the body, including the liver and lungs.

Treatment
Treatment for oral thrush may depend on the age of the patient.

  • In people with weak immune systems, doctors recommend antifungal medications in the form of tablets, lozenges or liquids. Antifungal medications may be prescribed for children too. A doctor may also recommend replenishing the natural bacteria in the mouth by adding products like unsweetened yoghurt to your diet.
  • In the case of infants, doctors are likely to recommend a simultaneous treatment plan for both the mother and baby. This is in order to prevent the risk of cross infection. The baby may be given an antifungal medication while the mother may have to apply an antifungal cream on the breasts.
  • In healthy adults, oral thrush infections can be controlled by adding unsweetened yoghurt to the diet. Supplements like acidophilus capsules that restore the normal balance of bacteria may also be prescribed. If diabetes medications are causing the oral thrush, a change in the dosage can be beneficial.
  • If the infection is caused by poorly fitting dental appliances, these can be re- structured or waxed to prevent injuries.

Home Remedies
These home remedies may be beneficial during an outbreak.

  • Rinse your mouth with a warm rinse of salt water.
  • Follow good dental hygiene practices.
  • If you develop an infection during breast feeding, use nursing pads to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of your body.

 

Prevention

  • If you develop vaginal yeast infections during pregnancy, get these treated as soon as possible.
  • Visit your dentists at least once or twice a year, especially if you suffer from diabetes or wear braces.
  • Cut down on sugary foods and yeast-heavy foods, including bread.
  • If you use corticosteroid inhalers, rinse your mouth after the inhalation.
  • Eat fresh culture yoghurt that contains essential bacteria
  • When you are on a course of prescribed antibiotics, take acidophilus supplements alongside the medication.

 

Alternative Treatments
Garlic has been found to contain antifungal properties. Garlic in its raw form, as paste or as capsules can help control the infection.

 

 

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