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Oral Thrush: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Oral Thrush: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Oral thrush is caused by the Candida albicans fungus (x). Although low levels of the fungus in the mouth are normal, its overgrowth and accumulation can cause oral thrush. One of the first signs of this condition is creamy, white lesions on the tongue and inner cheeks. However, the infection can quickly spread to the roof of the mouth, the gums, tonsils and the throat.

Anyone can get oral thrush. However, the disease often affects children and older adults because of their weak immunities. People with suppressed immune systems or taking antibatcterial medications are prone to oral thrush. The symptoms of oral thrush can be minor if you are healthy, but can quickly become difficult to control if you have a weak immune system (x).

Oral Thrush Symptoms

Some of the first signs of oral thrush are thick, creamy deposits on the mouth’s mucous membranes (x). In addition, it may cause the mucous membranes to become swollen and red. In some people, the spots may cause discomfort and a burning sensation. It is essential to avoid scraping the deposits to prevent bleeding.

The deposits may swell, become larger and form gray or yellowish plaque. Poor oral hygiene and oral dentures increase the risk of oral thrush. This condition can be classified into several categories (x):

  • Erythematous
  • Hyperplasic
  • Pseudomembranous
  • Angular cheilitis
  • Median rhomboid glossitis
  • Linear gingival erythema

Oral Thrush Risk Factors

Although oral thrush can occur in anyone, some people are more susceptible to the condition. Wearing dentures puts you at higher risk of contracting oral thrush, especially if the dentures are not cleaned regularly, do not fit properly or are worn at all times even when sleeping (x).

Some antibiotics also increase the risk of developing oral thrush because they eliminate the bacteria that keep Candida fungal growth in check. In addition, using excessive mouthwash can also increase the risk of oral thrush.

Long-term use of steroids may also increase the risk of developing oral thrush. In addition, people with weak immune systems are likely to contract it. Other risk factors for oral thrush (x) include diabetes, dry mouth, malnutrition and smoking.

Symptoms/Risk Factors of Oral Thrush

Causes of Oral Thrush

The leading cause of oral thrush is an overgrowth of the Candida fungus in the mouth (x). Small amounts of the fungus can live in the mouth without causing any significant damage. The immune system also helps to keep the growth of the fungus in check.

However, a compromised immune system can cause the fungus and other microorganisms in the body to multiply out of control. Taking medications such as antibiotics (x) can also lead to an overgrowth of the Candida fungus by reducing the number of bacteria that keeps the growth of the fungus in control.

Radiation therapy, chemotherapy and other forms of cancer treatment can damage healthy cells and make your body susceptible to infections, including oral thrush (x). In addition, leukemia, diabetes and HIV (x) can weaken the immune system and make it easier for the individual to contract opportunistic infections, including oral thrush.

Is Oral Thrush Contagious?

It is possible for oral thrush to be contagious because it can be passed from one person to another through kissing. Oral thrush is a form of yeast infection; therefore, it is possible to pass the infection from the mouth to other body parts of someone else.

People with oral thrush or other types of yeast infections, including vaginal and penile yeast infections, can potentially infect others through oral, vaginal, or anal sex (x). In addition, pregnant women with a yeast infection can pass on the infection to their babies during birth. On the same breath, lactating mothers with a yeast infection on their breasts or nipples can potentially transmit the infections to their babies during breastfeeding. However, the transmission of the Candida fungus to another person does not necessarily cause oral thrush. The fungus is also found in the environment. Therefore, contracting oral thrush does not necessarily mean that you got it from another person (x).

Oral Thrush Diagnosis

Diagnosing oral thrush is relatively easy; doctors often diagnose the infection simply by examining the mouth for the characteristic bumps associated with oral thrush (x). However, for a more definitive diagnosis, additional tests may have to be undertaken.

A biopsy is one of the diagnostic procedures for confirming oral thrush. This involves scraping off small portions of the bumps in the mouth. Once samples are obtained, they are taken to the lab to test for the Candida fungus.

Other tests that are used to confirm oral thrush are endoscopy and throat swab (x). These procedures are often used to verify the presence of the infection in the esophagus. In a throat swab, doctors use cotton swabs to take tissue samples from the throat for testing in a laboratory.

For an endoscopy, doctors use thin tubes with attached lights and camera to examine the mouth and esophagus. The tube is often inserted through the mouth into the esophagus. It can also be used to remove small tissue samples for further analysis in a lab.

Oral Thrush Remedies and Supplements

Different medications may be prescribed for the treatment of oral thrush (x) including nystatin, clotrimazole, fluconazole, itraconazole and amphotericin B. The symptoms of the disease usually go away a few weeks after beginning treatment. However, there is a possibility of a return of the infection.

Talk to a doctor if you have recurring cases of oral thrush without any apparent cause. There may be underlying factors that may be causing the condition or contributing to a re-infection. It is possible for infants to have multiple episodes of oral thrush in their first years of life due to their weak immune systems and exposure to the fungus in their environment (x).

Grapefruit Seed Extract Powder

This is an excellent antioxidant that promotes gut health and helps the body to fight off infections. It also has lots of minerals and vitamins. The suggested serving size for this supplement is 250 milligrams taken up to two times per day.

This is product is safe for use provided you adhere to the recommended serving size. However, it may interact with some drugs. Therefore, it is advisable to talk to a doctor before using the product. Also, it is essential to differentiate grapefruit seed extract from grape seed extract. The grape seed extract is derived from red grapes, while grapefruit seed extract is obtained from the actual grapefruit.

Due to its excellent solubility, this supplement can be mixed in juices, water or shakes before drinking. Be sure to store the supplement away from direct light, heat and moisture.

Cranberry

Another excellent antioxidant that promotes gut and urinary tract health. A considerable benefit of this supplement is that it does not contain harmful cholesterol or fat. The healthy serving size for this product is 400 milligrams take up to three times per day with lots of water.

Cranberry powder is food grade and safe for use. However, an overdose may lead to abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. Discontinue use if these symptoms occur and consult a doctor. Avoid using the product altogether in case you experience allergic reactions such as dizziness, swelling or itching of the tongue and difficulty breathing.

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Milk Thistle

This supplement has anti-inflammatory properties and is known for promoting skin, liver and heart health. This product is different from milkweed, which has its distinct benefits. Two hundred fifty milligrams per day taken with or without food is the healthy serving size for this supplement.

Although this product is generally safe for use, pregnant and nursing women should avoid using it altogether. In addition, it is not recommended for diabetics, people with hormonal imbalance and disorders of the reproductive system, as well as those with ragweed allergies. Overdose may cause side effects, including indigestion, headaches, flatulence and nausea. Visit a clinic if you experience any of the side effects.

Vitamin C

This is an essential nutrient that the body does not produce on its own. The healthy dosage for this supplement is 1,000 milligrams per day. A significant benefit of this supplement is that it is non-toxic and rarely causes extreme side effects even with an overdose. However, side effects such as headaches and diarrhea do occur in some cases. Lower your dosage if you experience these side effects.

Talk to a trained nutritionist before taking this supplement if you have a copper deficiency, are pregnant or have problems with iron accumulation in the body. In addition, avoid taking more than the recommended serving size.

Oregano Oil

This is a nutrient-rich product that does not contain soy, dairy product, fish or gluten. As a supplement, take one soft gel up to two times per day, preferably with meals. Although this supplement is food grade and considered safe for use, it is not recommended for expecting women or nursing mothers as well as people who are allergic to fennel, ginger and oregano.

Consult a doctor if you are thinking about using this supplement, especially if you have a medical condition or is currently on medication. In addition, this product is for use by adults only; therefore; keep out of children’s reach. Also, store in a cool place away from direct heat, light and moisture.

Effects of Oral Thrush on Breastfeeding

The Candida fungus that causes oral thrush is also responsible for yeast infections on the nipples and breasts (x). Therefore, it can quickly be passed from a mother to a baby during breastfeeding. In addition, babies with oral thrush can transmit the infection to the nipples and breasts of their mothers or other parts of the body.

It is essential to understand that the fungus that causes yeast infection may live on the skin without causing any symptoms of an infection. Therefore, infected mothers who do not show any signs of yeast infection on their breasts or nipples may transmit oral thrush to their babies.

Some of the signs of oral thrush on the breasts or nipple include (x):

  • Painful breasts during or after breastfeeding
  • Itch or a burning sensation on the infected part of the nipple or breasts
  • Shiny or pale spots around the infected nipple or breast
  • Flaky skin on or around the infected nipples or breasts

Seek medical attention if you suspect a yeast infection on you or your baby. A doctor will prescribe treatment (x) for both you and your baby to prevent the cycle of infection and re-infection. Your doctor may also advise you to:

  • Give your baby antifungal treatment as prescribed
  • Apply antifungal gel on the affected parts of your nipples and breasts and be sure to wipe off the gel before allowing your baby to breastfeed
  • Sterilize your baby’s items including bottle nipples, pacifiers, breast pump and teething rings
  • Clean your nipples and keep them dry at all times when the baby is not breastfeeding
  • Avoid nursing pads with plastic liners because they trap moisture that promotes fungal growth (x)

The Bottom Line

The Candida fungus causes oral thrush, which also causes a yeast infection. Although it affects all people, it is more common in children than in adults. This condition can be passed from one person to another through breastfeeding and oral, anal or vaginal sex. Fortunately, treatments are available for treating oral thrush. Supplements can also be prescribed to expedite the treatment process and strengthen the immune system to fight off the infection.

 
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