Diseases & Conditions


ThrushCausesDiagnosisHome RemediesPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatment

What is Thrush?

Thrush, or oral thrush, is characterized by the growth and accumulation of a fungus called Candida albicans inside the mouth.

Causes of Oral Thrush

The primary causes of oral thrush include weakening of the immune system by disease or drugs such as prednisone or disturbance in the natural balance of microorganisms in the body. Illnesses that make you prone to thrush include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Vaginal yeast infections

Diagnosis of Oral Thrush

Oral thrush may be diagnosed simply by looking at the insides of your mouth. However, to confirm the diagnosis of thrush, your doctor may take a small sample with a cotton swab. He or she may even recommend a couple blood tests to identify the source of the problem.

Home Remedies for Oral Thrush

These home remedies are likely to help with controlling oral thrush:

  • Practicing good oral hygiene
  • Warm saltwater rinse
  • Using nursing pads

Prevention of Oral Thrush

These measures may help with preventing oral thrush:

  • Rinsing your mouth after using a corticosteroid inhaler
  • Using fresh culture yogurt
  • Immediately treating any vaginal yeast infection
  • Regular dental checkups
  • Limiting sugar and yeast containing foods

Risk factors of Oral Thrush

Although anyone can develop oral thrush, some are at a higher risk than others. Risk factors for oral thrush include:

  • Infancy
  • Weakened immune system
  • Wearing dentures
  • Health conditions like diabetes or anemia
  • Certain medications, such as antibiotics, or oral or inhaled corticosteroids
  • Undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer
  • Xerostomia (conditions that cause dry mouth)
  • Smoking
  • Diseases like HIV/AIDS and cancer

Symptoms of Oral Thrush

The symptoms of oral thrush are likely to appear suddenly, yet persist for a long period of time. The symptoms of oral thrush vary between two groups of people: children and adults in one group and infants and breast feeding mothers in the other. Here is a list of major symptoms of thrush in both groups.

Children and Adults:

  • White, creamy lesions are likely to appear on the tongue and inner cheeks and sometimes even on gums, tonsils and the roof of the mouth.
  • Lesions that appear like cottage cheese
  • Pain
  • On rubbing or scrapping of lesions, you may see slight bleeding
  • Corners of the mouth getting cracked
  • An experience of cotton-mouth
  • You may be unable to taste food properly.

In very severe cases, lesion may spread to the esophagus (Candida esophagitis), causing difficulty in swallowing food.

Infants and breast feeding mothers:

Apart from the characteristic lesions in the mouth, infants suffering from oral thrush may become irritable and difficult to feed. Also, the risk of spreading the condition to the mother’s nipples is high and there is a possibility that the infection will keep passing between mother's breasts and baby's mouth. Mothers whose breasts are infected are likely to experience the following symptoms:

  • Nipples that show signs of redness, itchiness and swelling
  • Areola that become flaky or shiny
  • Discomfort while nursing
  • Pain in the nipples between feedings
  • Chest Pains

Treatment for Oral Thrush

Treatment of oral thrush is primarily concerned with stopping the growth of the fungus and removal of the infection. However, your age, your overall health and the cause of the infection also play a role in determining the correct treatment. Common treatments for oral thrush are as follows:

Infants and Mothers
-A mild antifungal medication for your baby and an antifungal cream for your breasts

Adults and Children
-Eating unsweetened yogurt or taking acidophilus capsules or liquid as well as an antifungal medication.