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Oral Candidiasis

What is oral candidiasis?

Oral candidiasis, or thrush, is a fungal infection that affects the inside of your mouth.

What causes oral candidiasis?

Oral candidiasis is caused by a fungus, or yeast-like germ. Fungi are normally found in your mouth. When there are too many fungi, it can cause an infection. Babies and the elderly are at higher risk because their immune systems are not as strong. Newborn babies may get thrush if the mother had vaginal candidiasis during delivery. The following may increase your risk of oral candidiasis:

  • Medical conditions that suppress your immune system, such as diabetes, cancer, or HIV and AIDS

  • Medicines, such as antibiotics, steroids, or chemotherapy

  • Radiation therapy to the head and neck

  • Dry mouth

  • Smoking

  • Dentures

What are the signs and symptoms of oral candidiasis?

  • White or whitish-yellow patches in the mouth that look like milk curds
    Oral Thrush

  • Redness or bleeding under the patches

  • Sore and painful mouth, with cracking or tearing on the corners

  • Bright red tongue that may feel like it is burning

  • Trouble swallowing and tasting

  • Swelling under dentures

How is oral candidiasis diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your medical history. He will ask when your signs and symptoms started. He will examine the inside of your mouth and the area around your mouth. You may also have any of the following:

  • Mouth culture: This is a test that may help caregivers learn which type of fungus is causing your oral candidiasis. It will also help your caregiver plan the best treatment for you. Your caregiver will rub a cotton swab on one of the patches and check it under a microscope.

  • Biopsy: Caregivers remove a small piece of tissue from the patches and send it to a lab for tests. After the biopsy, you may need stitches to close the wound. A bandage may cover the biopsy area. A biopsy helps caregivers rule out other serious problems, such as cancer.

How is oral candidiasis treated?

Treatment may cure your oral candidiasis:

  • Mouth care: Brush your teeth, gums, and tongue after you eat and before you go to sleep. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles. See your dentist for regular exams. Remove your dentures when you sleep, or at least 6 hours each day. Clean your dentures and soak them in denture cleaner. Let them air dry after soaking.

  • Antifungal medicine: This medicine helps kill the fungus that is causing your oral candidiasis. This medicine may be a pill or a solution that you gargle. Remove dentures before you gargle.

What are the risks of oral candidiasis?

The infection may return, even with treatment. Antifungal medicines may cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Without treatment, you may have trouble eating and drinking because of pain. This can lead to malnutrition and dehydration. The infection can spread to other parts of your body, such as your esophagus, stomach, or brain. This can be life-threatening.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.

  • You have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

  • Your signs and symptoms get worse, even after treatment.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have trouble swallowing and your jaw and neck are stiff.

  • You are dizzy, thirsty, or have a dry mouth.

  • You are urinating little or not at all.

  • You cannot eat or drink because of the pain.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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