Oral (Thrush)

Thrush (also called oropharyngeal candidiasis) is the overgrowth yeast in the mouth or on the tongue.

The yeast is called Candida. Candida is normally found on the skin and mucous membranes. Candida can grow excessively if the environment inside the mouth or throat becomes imbalanced.

When this happens, symptoms of thrush appear. Candida overgrowth can also develop in the esophagus (esophageal candidiasis) or vagina (vulvovaginal candidiasis).

Who gets thrush?

Thrust can affect normal newborns, persons with dentures, and people who use inhaled corticosteroids. It occurs more frequently and more severely in people with weakened immune systems, particularly in persons with AIDS and people undergoing treatment for cancer. 

Thrush is very unusual in otherwise healthy people.

How does someone get thrush?

Most cases of thrush are caused by the person’s own Candida organisms which normally live in the mouth or digestive tract. A person has symptoms when overgrowth of Candida organisms occurs.

What are the symptoms of thrush?

People with thrush usually have painless, white patches in the mouth. Others may have redness and soreness of the inside of the mouth. Cracking at the corners of the mouth, known as angular cheilitis, may occur. Symptoms of Candida esophagitis may include pain and difficulty swallowing. Other conditions can cause similar symptoms, so it is important to see your doctor.

How is thrust diagnosed?

Thrust is often diagnosed based on the clinical appearance of the mouth and by taking a scraping of the white patches and looking at it under a microscope. A culture may also be performed. Because Candida organisms are normal inhabitants of the human mouth, a positive culture by itself does not make the diagnosis.

How is thrust treated?

Prescription treatments include clotrimazole troches or lozenges and nystatin suspension (nystatin “swish and swallow”). Another commonly prescribed treatment is oral fluconazole. For infection which does not respond to these treatments, there are a number of other antifungal medications that are available.



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