Oral Thrush: What Is It?
The lining of your mouth may end up accumulating a fungus called Candida albicans , which is a condition more commonly called oral thrush . This condition causes lesions, usually on the tongue or inner cheeks, that are white in color. If you scrape your tongue regularly, these lesions can be painful and may even bleed slightly. Oral thrush, if left untreated, can also affect other areas of your mouth like the back of your throat, your tonsils, your gums and the roof of your mouth.
While oral thrush is a condition that can affect any part of the population, it’s more commonly found in people who have compromised (or weakened) immune systems, people who wear dentures, those who use corticosteroid inhalers or infants. Oral thrush can also appear in those who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments, have a documented condition of persistent dry mouth (xerostomia) or are smokers.
Oral Thrush Causes
Oral thrush can occur when a few things happen. A weakened immune system (by disease or drugs like prednisone) or the use of antibiotics that can alter the naturally occurring balance of microorganisms in the body can both be causes.
The natural, protective mechanisms can fail, causing the balance between “good” and “bad” microbes to shift dramatically one way or another. Normally, your immune system works to repel harmful viruses or bacteria, but a weakened immune system makes this harder, which can allow the fungus that causes oral thrush to grow.
Vaginal yeast infections, diabetes, most forms of cancer, and HIV/AIDS are all conditions that weaken the body and make it more susceptible to oral thrush.
Oral Thrush in Adults With Weakened Immune Systems
Oral thrush can spread within your body, affecting the lungs, liver and digestive tract. If the infection spreads to the intestines, it may lead to malnutrition and make you weaker.
Depending upon the severity of your infection, you may be prescribed antifungal medication, such as tablets, lozenges or a mouthrinse intended for swallowing. You might also be prescribed amphotericin B, which is used frequently used for late-stage HIV infection and infections that have become resistant to more common antifungal medications.
Because some antifungal medications can cause liver damage, your doctor will probably perform blood tests and monitor your liver function (especially if the infection has spread to the liver). This is also true if the treatment is expected to take longer than normal or if you have a history of liver disease.
Oral Thrush Symptoms in Children and Adults
Symptoms of oral thrush may not appear immediately in some cases. Conversely, you may end up developing signs and symptoms completely suddenly. Here are some telltale signs you may be experiencing oral thrush:
White, creamy lesions appearing anywhere in the mouthNew pains during regular mouth motionsBleeding if lesions are scraped or rubbedFor denture wearers, cracking or redness near the corners of the mouthDry mouthA noticeable loss of taste when eating or drinking