Symptoms and treatment of oral yeast infections
Oral thrush, or candidiasis, is a yeast infection of the mouth, caused by the fungus Candida albicans. This organism is quite common in humans, living on our skin, in our mouths, in the gastrointestinal tract and, in the case of women, in the vagina. Thrush happens when Candida albicans grows uncontrollably, causing pain and inflammation. Thrush is rarely serious, but it can cause complications and interfere with a mother and child's breastfeeding relationship, so it should be addressed as soon as possible.
Thrush Symptoms and Causes
Thrush is not a disease that you can catch; the yeast already exists in your body and something has caused it to grow out of control. The main cause of an oral yeast infection is overuse of antibiotics, which kills off all bacteria, good and bad, in the body. Bacteria are needed to keep Candida albicans under control. When the bacteria are no longer present, the yeast has nothing to keep it in check, causing an infection. This happens a lot with cancer patients and other immunocompromised people.
Thrush presents itself as curd-like white patches in the mouth and on the tongue. The patches may or may not be painful. It may also cause cracked, red painful areas at the corners of the mouth. Because thrush interferes with a baby's latch, it can cause an issue with breastfeeding.
Physical complications are very rare with thrush, but can include secondary infections when the yeast spreads to vital organs in the body. However, this happens mostly only when the immune system is compromised.
Thrush Treatment and Prevention
When your doctor diagnoses thrush, he or she will scrape the infected area gently and examine it under a microscope. Candidiasis is easy to identify, especially after your doctor determines whether you have been on antibiotics or medications that can weaken the immune system. He or she will then prescribe an antifungal medication. This can include a lozenge, such as Diflucan for thrush, which will dissolve in the mouth, or a suspension that can be swished in the mouth and then swallowed. For advanced cases of thrush, the medication may need to be taken for an extended period of time.
In the case of baby thrush, the doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal cream that can be applied both to the baby's mouth and to the mother's nipples, to stop the cross-spread of yeast when the child breastfeeds. Sometimes, a stronger treatment is needed; gentian violet and Nystatin are two common aggressive treatments for recurring, severe baby thrush.
Thrush is rarely serious and is easily cleared up. If the infection recurs or if your baby's breastfeeding technique has been compromised, contact a medical professional for help.
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