Oral thrush: Causes, symptoms, and treatments

Oral thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is a yeast/fungi infection of the genus Candida that develops on the mucous membranes of the mouth.

It is most commonly caused by the fungus Candida albicans, but may also be caused by Candida glabrata or Candida tropicalis.

For the majority of individuals, oral thrush does not cause any serious problems. However, this is not the case for people with a weakened immune system, whose signs and symptoms may be much more severe.

The outcome for oral thrush is generally very good. Most people respond well to treatment. However, oral thrush tends to reappear, especially if the causal factor (smoking, for instance) is not removed.

In this article, we will cover all aspects of oral thrush, including the causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Fast facts on oral thrush

Here are some key points about oral thrush. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

Oral thrush is a common condition, but for most, it does not cause major problems.

Individuals with a reduced immune system are worst affected by oral thrush.

Oral thrush can occur more regularly after chemotherapy or radiotherapy to the head and neck.

It is more common in people who are taking steroids, wear dentures, or have diabetes.

The most obvious symptom of oral thrush is creamy or white-colored deposits in the mouth.

Treatment of oral thrush

[Woman with an open mouth]
Oral thrush is caused by species of Candida fungus.

Doctors will usually prescribe anti-thrush drugs, such as nystatin or miconazole in the form of drops, gel, or lozenges.

Alternatively, the patient may be prescribed a topical oral suspension which is washed around the mouth and then swallowed.

Oral or intravenously administered antifungals may be the choice for patients with weakened immune systems.

If treatment is not working, amphotericin B may be used; however, this will only be used as a last resort due to the negative side effects which include fever, nausea, and vomiting.

A Doctor checks a patient's throat
Oral thrush is typically diagnosed after an oral examination.

Oral thrush in adults generally appears as thick, white or cream-colored deposits (spots) on the mucous membrane of the mouth (wet parts of the inside of the mouth).

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