Oral Thrush

What is it?

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Oral thrush is a fungal infection of the mouth caused by a type of fungus called Candida, most commonly the species called Candida albicans. This fungus naturally lives in the mouth and skin in small amounts without causing any problems. But sometimes it grows out of control and you get an infection.

What happens?

Even though candida is found in everyone, some people are more predisposed to having infections from it. These people include:

• people with a weak immune system caused by medical treatments, such as

anti-cancer drugs, corticosteroids (steroids), or radiotherapy.

• people with diseases that weaken their immune system, such as AIDS and cancer of the white blood cells

• types 1 and 2 diabetics.

• people with a severe, long-term dry mouth

• babies (because of their immature immune system)

• smokers

• people with poor oral hygiene

• malnourished people.

What are the symptoms?

There are various types of oral thrush, and they may appear differently.

• The most common type appears as small white patches on the inside of the cheeks, throat, tongue, or gums. The patches may come off and bleed if rubbed.

• Oral thrush may also present as smooth red patches on the roof of the mouth, the back of the tongue, or the inside of the cheeks.

• In the type of thrush called angular cheilitis, the angles of the mouth are swollen and reddish, and the corners of the mouth may appear crusty or scaly.

What treatments work?

If the infection is mild or moderate without pain, topical antifungals may be all you need. These come in the form of liquid to swirl around your mouth or tablets to suck on or put in your cheek. They are quite effective in this case.

For more severe infections causing pain and a burning feeling in the mouth, antifungal tablets usually need to be swallowed. Antifungal medication may also have to be given in drip form for even more stubborn infections. These options are more efficacious than topical antifungals, but also more likely to cause side effects.

People with severely weakened immune system or babies with immature immune system may need treatment with antifungals to prevent oral thrush infection.

What will happen to me?

In babies, oral thrush usually clears up on its own within a few weeks.

In others, without treatment, oral thrush can go on for months, or they could get repeat infections.