What is Thrush?
- Thrush is a yeast infection of the mucus membrane lining the mouth and tongue. Thrush is caused by forms of a fungus known as Candida. Small amounts of the candida fungus are present in the mouth, digestive tract, and skin of most healthy people and are normally kept in check by other bacteria and microorganisms in the body. When the immune system is weak, the fungus can grow. Other factors which increase chances of getting thrush are:
- Being in poor health
- Being very old or very young
- Having an HIV infection or AIDS
- Receiving chemotherapy for cancer or drugs to suppress immune system
- Taking steroid medications
People who have diabetes and have high blood sugar levels are more likely to get thrush in the mouth (oral thrush), because the extra sugar in saliva acts like food for Candida. Thrush is commonly seen in infants. It is not considered abnormal in infants unless it lasts longer than a couple of weeks. Antibiotics kill some of the healthy bacteria that help keep Candida from growing too much, taking high doses or long term of antibiotics increases the risk of oral thrush. Thrush is not limited to the mouth; it can occur in other parts of the body as well, causing diaper rash in infants or vaginal yeast infections in women.
Signs and Symptoms
- A common sign of thrush is the presence of creamy white, slightly raised lesions in the mouth (usually on the tongue or inner cheeks, but sometimes on the roof the mouth, gums, tonsils, or back of throat). The lesions, which may have a “cottage cheese” appearance, can be painful and may bleed slightly when scraped. In severe cases, the lesions can spread into esophagus, or swallowing tube and causing:
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- A feeling that food gets stuck in the throat or mid-chest area
- Fever, if the infection spreads beyond the esophagus
Test & Screening
- Doctor or dentist can almost always diagnose thrush by looking at the mouth and tongue. The sores have a distinct appearance.
- It also can be diagnosed by the culture of mouth lesions or microscopic examination of mouth scrapings.