Oral thrush is a fungal infection that most often occurs in infants, older adults and those with weakened immune systems. It’s caused by candida albicans, yeast that shows up as white patches in the mouth or throat.
We naturally have candida in our mouths and it rarely presents a problem in healthy people. Sometimes due to illness, stress or medications, the yeast multiplies, causing infections. You may be at risk for thrush if you have ill-fitting dentures, dry mouth, uncontrolled diabetes, HIV or other conditions that have weakened your immune system. Certain medications, such as antibiotics or inhaled corticosteroids, can also put you at risk.
Symptoms of thrush include:
- Creamy white patches inside the mouth, on the tongue or inner cheeks
- Slight bleeding or redness under the patches
- Cracking at the mouth corners
- Difficulty swallowing or pain
- Fever (if the infection moves beyond the mouth or esophagus)
Your dentist can diagnose thrush by looking for white lesions on your mouth, tongue or cheeks. Your dentist or doctor can also confirm the diagnosis by looking at a sample of the lesion under a microscope.
If your practitioner believes thrush has moved down your throat to your esophagus, additional tests may be necessary, such as a throat culture, X-ray or an endoscopy of your esophagus, stomach or small intestine. Doctors perform an endoscopy by mounting a lighted camera on the tip of a tube that’s passed through the body areas in question.
Treatments for thrush include anti-fungal medications, such as oral fluconazole.