Oral thrush is a problem that can affect anyone, but is most common in babies, toddlers, elderly adults, and people who have a weakened immune system. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is caused when a fungus, called Candida albicans builds up on the lining of the mouth. Thrush is a minor problem for a person who is healthy, but for those who have a weakened immune system, symptoms can be more severe, and it can spread farther, and be more difficult to control.
Oral thrush causes creamy white lesions in the mouth, normally on the tongue and/or inner cheeks. These lesions resemble cottage cheese. Sometimes, these lesions are painful and may even bleed a little bit when you scrape them or brush your teeth. Thrush can spread to the roof of the mouth, the gums, the tonsil and/or the back of the throat. Symptoms of oral thrush often appear suddenly, but they may continue for a long period of time.
In very severe cases of oral thrush, these cottage cheese like lesions may spread downward and into the esophagus, if this happens, there may be difficulty in swallowing and the person may feel as if food is getting stuck in their throat.
There are some signs and symptoms in babies and breast-feeding mothers that you should be aware of. A healthy newborn that has oral thrush will normally develop symptoms in the first few weeks of life. In addition to having the cottage cheese like lesions, a baby with oral thrush may have trouble eating and may be fussy or irritable. If a baby has oral thrush and is breast fed, the baby can pass the thrush on to its mother. If this happens, the problem will be transferred back and forth between mother and baby each time the baby nurses. If a woman who is breast feeding has thrush on her breasts, she may have unusually red or sensitive nipples, shiny or flaky skin on the areola of her breast, she may have unusual pain in her nipples during feeding, or between feedings, and she may experience stabbing pains deep within her breast.
You are at a higher risk of developing oral thrush if you are an older or elderly adult, you have a weaken immune system; you use an oral corticosteroid or antibiotic, or id you use a corticosteroid inhaler to treat asthma. Babies commonly get thrush because their immune systems are not fully developed at birth.
If your baby has any sign or symptom of oral thrush, you should seek medical care. If an older child or adolescent develops signs and there are no risk factors present, you should seek medical care because there may be an underlying condition that has contributed to the oral thrush.
Oral thrush can be diagnosed by just looking at the lesions in the mouth. Sometimes, though, a sample will be taken and looked at under a microscope to confirm that it is thrush. If the doctor thinks that there may be an underlying condition, chances are more tests will be done to find the root cause. If the thrush spreads into the esophagus, it can be serious and the doctor will likely do some tests to see just how far it has spread.
Tests done to see how far thrush has spread include a throat culture, in which the back of the throat is swabbed and cultured, an endoscopic examination, in which the doctor uses a lighted flexible tube that has a camera on the end of it to look down into your esophagus, stomach, and upper part of your small intestine, and/or a barium swallow, in which you have to drink a thick chalky liquid so the doctor can take x-rays while the drink goes down your esophagus and into your stomach.
Oral thrush rarely creates a problem for healthy children and adults, but it can return even after treatment. In those with weakened immune systems, thrush can be serious. If it spreads, it can cause difficulty in swallowing and therefore; difficulty in getting proper nutrition. Thrush is more likely to spread to other parts of the body if a personas HIV/AIDS, cancer, or any condition that weakens their immune system. Thrush can spread and affect the digestive tract, lungs, and liver.
If an infant has oral thrush, and is breast feeding, both mother and baby need to be treated. Treatment is likely to be an anti-fungal medication for the baby and an anti-fungal cream for the mother to apply to her breasts. If the baby uses a pacifier or drinks from a bottle, in addition to the anti-fungal medication, it is important for you to wash and rinse nipples and pacifiers in a mixture of half water, half white vinegar every day until the thrush clears up.
For children with thrush, if they are normal, healthy children and there is no underlying cause, a treatment may not be needed. If the problem develops after a course of antibiotics, the doctor may suggest that the child eat unsweetened yogurt to help restore the body’s natural bacteria balance. If the thrush is persistent and lasts a long time, or worsens, the doctor may prescribe an anti-fungal medication.
In healthy adults, thrush may be controlled by eating unsweetened yogurt or taking an acidophilus capsule or liquid. These things do not destroy the fungus that causes thrush, but they can help the body to restore a natural balance of bacteria. If these things are not effective, the doctor may prescribe an anti-fungal medication.
If a person has a weakened immune system, chances are that the doctor will prescribe an anti-fungal medication to help reduce the chance of it spreading.
The fungus that causes thrush, Candida albicans, can become resistant to anti-fungal medications. This happens commonly with people who are in late-stage HIV infection. When this happens, a medication called amphotericin B may be used. Some anti-fungal medications can cause liver damage. If you are taking an anti-fungal medication, your doctor may do tests to monitor your liver.
According to Mayo Clinic, the best ways to prevent thrush is to rinse your mouth out if you use a corticosteroid inhaler. Try adding fresh culture yogurt to your diet. Fresh culture yogurt contains Lactobactcillus acidophilus or bifidobacterium. You can also take acidophilus in capsule or liquid form. See your dentist at least once every year, especially if you have diabetes or wear dentures. Brush and floss your teeth regularly and if you wear dentures, be sure to clean them thoroughly and often. You should also try to limit the amount of sugar and yeast-containing foods. This includes beer, wine, and bread.
If you have a thrush outbreak develop, these things may help; brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day, and replace your toothbrush frequently until the problem clears up. If you have trouble brushing effectively, use an electric toothbrush. Avoid using mouthwash or sprays. Try warm, salt-water rinses to help, and use nursing pads if you are breast-feeding to help prevent the fungus from spreading and transferring to your clothing. Try to use pads that do not have a plastic barrier.
Oral thrush is normally not a severe problem, if it develops in a person who has a healthy, normal immune system. If the person has a weakened immune system, thrush can be a lot more serious. If you think that you have thrush you should try to eat unsweetened yogurt or take acidophilus capsules or liquid to help restore the bacteria balance in your body. If thrush gets worse or seems to hang on for a long time, go to your doctor. He may prescribe an anti-fungal medication to help you.