Thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is a common fungal infection that affects the mouth and throat. It is caused by the overgrowth of a type of yeast called Candida albicans, which is normally found in small amounts in the mouth and on the skin. While thrush can occur in anyone, it is more common in people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or AIDS, cancer, or diabetes. It can also occur in people who are taking certain medications, such as antibiotics or inhaled corticosteroids.
Symptoms of thrush include:
- White patches on the tongue, gums, or inner cheeks: These patches can be scraped off, revealing a red and sore underlying surface.
- Painful or burning sensation in the mouth: This can make it difficult to eat or drink, and can also cause a loss of appetite.
- Dry mouth: This can lead to difficulty swallowing and an increase in the amount of saliva produced.
- Sore throat: This can cause difficulty swallowing and may also be accompanied by a hoarse or raspy voice.
- Swollen or red gums: This can lead to difficulty eating and talking.
- Bad breath: This can be caused by the overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth due to thrush.
- Difficulty wearing dentures: Thrush can cause dentures to become loose or uncomfortable, leading to difficulty wearing them.
Thrush can be treated with antifungal medications, which can be taken orally or applied directly to the affected areas in the mouth. These medications work by killing the overgrown yeast and preventing it from spreading. Some common antifungal medications for thrush include nystatin, fluconazole, and clotrimazole.
In addition to taking antifungal medications, there are also several things that can be done to prevent the reoccurrence of thrush:
- Practice good oral hygiene: This includes brushing teeth and tongue twice a day, flossing daily, and using a mouthwash that contains chlorhexidine.
- Avoid foods that can promote the growth of yeast: These include sugary and high-carbohydrate foods, such as bread and pasta, as well as alcohol.
- Avoid tobacco: Smoking can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of developing thrush.
- Avoid sharing utensils, towels, and other personal items: This can help to prevent the spread of thrush to others.
- Keep your mouth moist: This can be done by drinking plenty of water, sucking on ice chips, or using a saliva substitute.
- Wear dentures properly: Dentures should be removed at night and thoroughly cleaned before being worn again.
- Check for and treat underlying medical conditions: If you have a weakened immune system or are taking medications that can weaken the immune system, your healthcare provider may recommend taking steps to strengthen your immune system or adjusting your medication regimen to reduce the risk of developing thrush.
Thrush is a common and easily treatable condition, but it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent the infection from spreading and to reduce the risk of complications. If you think you may have thrush, it is important to see your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. With proper treatment and prevention measures, thrush can be effectively managed and controlled.