Oral thrush

Oral thrush — also called oral candidiasis (kan-dih-DIE-uh-sis) — is a condition in which the fungus Candida albicans accumulates on the lining of your mouth. Candida is a normal organism in your mouth, but sometimes it can overgrow and cause symptoms.

Oral thrush causes creamy white lesions, usually on your tongue or inner cheeks. Sometimes oral thrush may spread to the roof of your mouth, your gums or tonsils, or the back of your throat.

Although oral thrush can affect anyone, it's more likely to occur in babies, the elderly, and in people with suppressed immune systems or certain health conditions, or those who take certain medications. Oral thrush is a minor problem if you're healthy, but if you have a weakened immune system, symptoms of oral thrush may be more severe and difficult to control.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Initially, you may not even notice symptoms of oral thrush. Depending on the underlying cause, signs and symptoms may develop slowly or suddenly, and they may persist for days, weeks or months. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Creamy white lesions on your tongue, inner cheeks, and sometimes on the roof of your mouth, gums and tonsils
  • Slightly raised lesions with a cottage cheese-like appearance
  • Redness or soreness that may be severe enough to cause difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Slight bleeding if the lesions are rubbed or scraped
  • Cracking and redness at the corners of your mouth (especially in denture wearers)
  • A cottony feeling in your mouth
  • Loss of taste

In severe cases, the lesions may spread downward into your esophagus — the long, muscular tube stretching from the back of your mouth to your stomach (Candida esophagitis). If this occurs, you may experience difficulty swallowing or feel as if food is getting stuck in your throat.

Infants and breast-feeding mothers

In addition to the distinctive white mouth lesions, infants may have trouble feeding or be fussy and irritable. They can pass the infection to their mothers during breast-feeding. The infection may then pass back and forth between the mother's breasts and the baby's mouth.

Women whose breasts are infected with candidamay experience these signs and symptoms:

  • Unusually red, sensitive, cracked or itchy nipples
  • Shiny or flaky skin on the darker, circular area around the nipple (areola)
  • Unusual pain during nursing or painful nipples between feedings
  • Stabbing pains deep within the breast

When to see a doctor

If you or your child develops painful white lesions inside the mouth, see your doctor or dentist. If thrush develops in older children or teenagers, seek medical care. An underlying medical condition or certain treatments may be the cause.

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