Oral Thrush

Oral thrush is a yeast infection of oral mucosa. The infection itself is just a minor problem but it may indicate presence of another disease affecting the immune system.


The disease is usually caused by yeast known as Candida that affects sin and mucous membranes of many body systems (such as urogenital tract and vaginal mucosa). The Candida normally lives in mucous membranes of healthy people but properly functioning immune system prevents it from proliferation. Impaired function of the immune system is often associated with a higher incidence of yeast infections. Such conditions include diabetes, chronic immunosuppressive therapy and AIDS.


The symptoms are variable. The patient may suffer from burning sensations in the oral cavity, dry mouth and swallowing problems including pain during swallowing. The oral mucosa may be reddish and sometimes with white coatings on the tongue and in throat. The coatings represent Candida colonies visible to the eye. They can be peeled off with a spatula, which is frequently followed by local mucosal bleeding. Sometimes, a local yeast infection may manifest as cracked corners of mouth.


The suspicion is high in a patient with known immunodeficiency with the above-mentioned symptoms. Oral swab is usually done and sent for a microbiological examination to confirm the yeast infection. If there is no clear evidence of immune system disorder in patients with recurrent oral thrush, we should at least exclude diabetes and AIDS in high-risk patients.


The only effective method is the antimycotic therapy. It is usually administered in oral form of tablets or solution. Antibiotic therapy is totally ineffective and it can even worsen the condition. If there is any present immunodeficiency, we should treat it as well (if possible).


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Contact: jiri.stefanek@seznam.cz
 Sources: basic text sources