Oral thrush is a fungal infection of the oral mucosa. In the vernacular, this disease is also often called mouth fungus. Especially people with a weakened immune system and infants have an increased risk of developing oral thrush.
What is oral thrush?
Oral thrush affects the mucous membranes in the mouth. In the normal oral flora there is basically a large number of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. But these do no harm. In addition, there are also bacteria, viruses and fungi that cause diseases if they can penetrate the oral mucosa. This also includes the causative agent of oral thrush, a yeast fungus. Based on the pathogen, the disease is therefore often referred to as mouth fungus. See electronicsmatter for Heart Failure Definition.
The triggering yeast can spread very quickly in the body and migrate from the oral mucosa to the throat, from where it can also infect the esophagus, stomach and intestines. Therefore, oral thrush should be treated as soon as possible.
Oral thrush is caused by an infection with a yeast. In most cases, it is Candida albicans, a very common pathogen from the yeast family. But Candida tropicalis and Candida stellatoidea also trigger oral thrush.
However, not everyone who comes into contact with one of these pathogens also develops oral thrush. For the disease to break out, the body’s immune system must be weakened. For this reason, there are different risk groups that are considered to be particularly at risk for oral thrush. These primarily include infants, the elderly and patients with chronic diseases that cause a weak immune system.
In people with an intact immune system, the pathogen has no chance of triggering the disease. The pathogen is recognized and fought very quickly by the immune system.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Depending on the form, oral thrush can cause various signs and symptoms. Pseudomembranous candidiasis is manifested by a white, easily wipeable coating and an inflamed mucosa that is slightly red and painful to the touch. Acute erythematous candidiasis is associated with burning mucous membranes that are very red in the area of the tongue.
Coverings do not normally occur with this form. In hyperplastic candidiasis, a white coating with red borders appears on the mucous membrane and tongue, which is difficult to remove. The forms in which deposits form have in common that touching them can cause bleeding. Any form of candidiasis can spread quickly and extend into the throat.
The consequences of such a procrastination are a sore throat and difficulty swallowing. In severe cases, oral thrush spreads to the esophagus and through it to the gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to stomach cramps, heartburn and nausea.
This is accompanied by general symptoms such as fever, exhaustion and a strong feeling of being unwell. If the candidiasis is limited to the oral cavity, no major complications arise. The mucosal changes usually subside once the infection has cleared.
Diagnosis & History
Typical of oral thrush is a whitish coating on the oral mucosa and in the pharynx. However, this does not necessarily have to occur, there can also be a reddened oral mucosa. There may also be a burning sensation in the mouth.
In order to make a diagnosis, a detailed discussion between the doctor and the patient is necessary. This is followed by a physical examination in which the oral mucosa is examined in detail.
Oral thrush is also very often accompanied by an unpleasant bad breath caused by the fungus. The lymph nodes can also be swollen.
Oral thrush causes hardly any pain, but the sensitive infants can feel this differently and, in the worst case, stop eating. Therefore, prompt treatment is very important. Also to prevent the spread of the disease.
In most cases, this disease can be treated relatively well and easily, so that there are no serious complications or other symptoms. Those affected suffer primarily from severe discomfort in the oral cavity. The result is a dry mouth and increased thirst.
Sometimes a coating appears on the tongue and patients usually suffer from bad breath. A burning tongue can also occur and the patient’s sense of taste is clearly disturbed by the disease. The quality of life is significantly reduced by the disease. Problems can also arise when taking liquids and food, as this is usually associated with pain.
This not only leads to deficiency symptoms, but also not infrequently to psychological complaints or depression. There are no further complications during the treatment itself. With the help of medication or antibiotics, the disease can be defeated relatively easily.
In severe cases, if the disease has spread to the stomach and intestines, other parts of the body may also need to be treated. As a rule, life expectancy is not reduced or limited.
When should you go to the doctor?
In infants and young children, any occurrence of oral thrush is a reason to see a doctor. The immune system is still developing at this age and, above all, the young patients need regular food. Because of oral thrush, they may refuse the breast or bottle, or their pap, which can quickly weaken the immune system further, allowing existing oral thrush to spread further. In adults, oral thrush usually only occurs when the immune system is severely attacked or certain antibiotics are taken.
In the case of a long-term disease that has weakened the immune system, adult patients should also see a doctor at the first symptoms of oral thrush and have them treated with medication. This can prevent oral thrush from spreading and causing uncomfortable symptoms. In addition, the doctor can use this opportunity to examine whether a nutrient deficiency may be responsible for the fact that oral thrush could develop in the first place.
A recurrence can then be prevented with suitable nutritional supplements. Furthermore, it must be clarified whether the presumed diagnosis of oral thrush is not a precursor of a tumor that looks the same and causes comparable symptoms. However, this differential diagnosis usually only occurs in adults; with small children, the first suspicion is usually correct.
Treatment & Therapy
To treat oral thrush, special medications are used, so-called antifungals, antifungals. These drugs come in a variety of forms: lozenges, solutions, suspensions, or as a gel. The active ingredients amphotericin B and nystatin are often used here. If oral thrush is in an early stage, treatment with such medication is sufficient and the symptoms will usually subside quite quickly.
However, if oral thrush is more advanced and has penetrated deeper into the body, this form of treatment with an antifungal agent is no longer sufficient. In addition to local application, the active ingredients must then also be taken orally so that they can reach the other affected parts of the body and fight the yeast infection there.
In any case, it is important to strictly adhere to the prescribed duration of treatment. Even if the symptoms are already diminishing or have even disappeared completely, the medication should be taken to the end. Otherwise, there is a risk that the disease will flare up again. In particularly stubborn cases, when oral thrush cannot be contained or keeps coming back despite long enough therapy, stronger antifungals can be used. These penetrate into the gastrointestinal area and effectively fight the yeast fungi there.
If the patient suffers from pain caused by oral thrush, painkillers can also be prescribed. Paracetamol is very commonly used in oral thrush.
During the illness, great attention should be paid to hygiene. This is particularly important for infants. It is recommended to boil the teats of bottles and pacifiers daily and replace them after the symptoms have healed.
Outlook & Forecast
Infections with Candida albicans are usually harmless and usually heal on their own within a few days. Almost everyone has oral thrush at least once in their life, but it goes away on its own. The causes are usually a temporary weakening of the immune system or a disturbance of the natural oral flora, such as can be triggered by taking antibiotics.
Prolonged oral thrush mainly occurs in newborns, the elderly or generally people with a weakened immune system. It can also lead to a more severe course with extensive and long-lasting inflammation in the mouth, whereby drug treatment may be necessary. This consists of administering antimycotics (e.g. Nistatin or Amphotericin B) and is usually successful within a few days.
If oral thrush recurs, it is important to find the cause of the disease and eliminate it if possible. Candida fungi can be found on the mucous membranes of most people, but they only cause problems when other factors encourage them. In immunocompromised patients, prophylactic use of antifungal drugs can help stop recurrent infections. Consequential damage from oral thrush is not to be expected.
Oral thrush can be prevented with good hygiene. People with dentures should pay attention to good oral hygiene and clean the dentures after every meal. Corresponding hygiene measures also apply to infants. Pacifiers, bottle teats and toys that are regularly put in the mouth should be cleaned regularly. In the case of teats and pacifiers, all germs are killed by sterilization using boiling or a special device.
Follow-up care for oral thrush includes various approaches. First of all, it is important that the patients do not discontinue the medication prematurely as soon as they notice an improvement. Because in many cases there are still many pathogens present when the oral thrush is no longer visible.
Therefore, the prescribed antimycotics must be taken for as long as the doctor has prescribed. It then makes sense to have a follow-up examination carried out by the doctor treating you. Follow-up care also includes measures to prevent future outbreaks of oral thrush. For adults, this includes, for example, not consuming tobacco and compensating for existing nutrient deficiencies.
Thorough hygiene is important when using dentures or braces. There are other rules that apply to infected babies, which parents in particular must observe. Pacifiers and other toys that are put in the mouth by the baby must be meticulously cleaned regularly.
Parents should also make sure that their own saliva does not come into contact with the child’s mouth or toy, as a new infection can also occur in this way. If oral thrush occurs frequently, regular check-ups with the doctor are useful in order to be able to intervene in good time by administering medication. A preventive administration of antimycotics is then also possible.
You can do that yourself
Simple measures that can be easily integrated into the daily routine make a significant contribution to preventing or combating bacterial inflammation in the mouth. Optimal oral hygiene and a healthy diet deprive fungi of their food and livelihood.
Thorough brushing of teeth, twice a day, and changing toothbrushes and dental care items are important cornerstones of good oral hygiene. Regular checking of the condition of the teeth by a dentist can be an important supplement as part of prevention. Wearers of dentures can counteract fungal infestation by checking the surface and proper fit of their dentures every day. Dentures can be cleaned with agents that are effective against fungi. Thoroughly rinsing out the mouth after using sprays containing cortisone is important for asthmatics. After consulting your pulmonary specialist, you may reduce the dose of the drug.
Another building block in the context of self-help is a healthy probiotic diet. If the diet contains a lot of sugar, fungi find optimal living conditions. It is therefore important for diabetics to regularly check the optimal setting of their blood sugar level. In general, switching to a low-sugar diet is recommended for oral thrush.
In addition to observing simple rules of hygiene and nutrition, taking medication against oral thrush as prescribed by the doctor is crucial – stopping the therapy early can lead to a relapse.