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Oral Thrush Treatment & Remedies

Oral Thrush Treatment & Remedies

The initial step in oral thrush treatment is simply to understand what is going on and to learn to recognize the symptoms of oral thrush. When the mucous membranes of the mouth become infected with an overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans the resulting infection is called thrush.

This is the same naturally occurring fungus that causes vaginal yeast infections and diaper rash. Although technically a condition in infants, the term “thrush” has come to be a catch-all for adult yeast infections of the mouth and throat.

The First Signs Are Visual

Oral thrush symptoms include white or yellow spots on the tongue and the lining of the cheeks that have a slightly raised surface. The outbreak can spread to the roof of the mouth, the gums, tonsils, and the back of the throat. Normally there is only mild pain although the spots will bleed when they have scratched away. Adults may experience burning in the mouth and throat.

When thrush spreads to the throat (Candida esophagitis), you will have difficulty swallowing and experience the feeling of food being stuck in your throat or chest. Fever is also likely.

Babies can develop thrush in the first few weeks after birth. The mouth lesions will also be present in infants and the child will be fussy. Many women do not realize the child has an outbreak of thrush until the infection is passed to the mother’s breast as a consequence of nursing. The mother’s nipples will become red and irritated with taut areolas and sharp pain deep in the breast.

Imbalances Cause Thrush

The causes of oral thrush are issues that create an imbalance in the normal relationship between our body and the Candida albicans. When something happens to weaken the body’s immune system, the naturally occurring viruses, bacteria, and fungi that travel in our bodies and co-exist with us peacefully and beneficially can suddenly begin to grow out of control.

Other Diseases Can Be Responsible

Many medical conditions can be the cause of oral thrush. In the last twenty-five years, HIV/AIDS has topped this list. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks all aspects of the immune system making the patient highly susceptible to infections of all types. Although rare early in cases of AIDS, thrush often appears when the T-cell count falls below 350. If the T-cells fall below 200 the thrush will most likely spread into the throat. The presence of thrush normally indicates the AIDS is worsening.

Cancers of any kind and their treatment also affect the immune system resulting in outbreaks of thrush. Thrush can be very severe for patients with cancer or HIV as it greatly weakens the immune system and, if allowed to grow into the throat, limits their ability to take adequate nutrition.

In diabetic patients where the saliva contains large amounts of sugar, thrush is common. If a woman develops a vaginal yeast infection during pregnancy the chances are good her baby will have thrush. Another common cause of thrush is a problem called xerostomia or dry mouth syndrome.

Dry mouth can occur as a natural consequence of aging, from the use of tobacco products, or from medications. Some autoimmune diseases also cause dry mouth. Anything that is likely to disrupt the chemistry of the mouth can be a cause of an outbreak of thrush. Even wearing dentures (and not properly maintaining the appliance) can be responsible for thrush. (Also be aware that the use of antibiotics or corticosteroids that upset the body’s chemical balance may be culprits as well.)

Diagnosis, Mainly By Visual Exam

Normally the diagnosis is nothing more than a visual examination of the mouth. Find a photograph of oral thrush. Charts of disorders of the mouth usually contain such an illustration. You will see that the outbreak resembles cottage cheese and is quite distinctive. Occasionally a doctor will take a small scraping of a single lesion for examination under the microscope but usually simply looking at the outbreak is enough for a doctor to begin oral thrush treatment.

If the thrush has spread into the throat, the doctor will likely take a throat swab and culturing the collected tissue. This is simply to determine which bacteria or fungus is growing back there. If the outbreak is particularly severe, endoscopic examination with a device that allows the doctor to see the esophagus, stomach, and the upper portions of the small intestine may be required. This is done under mild sedation and local anesthesia to prevent coughing and gagging.

An alternate imaging method has the patient drinking a “milkshake” of barium prior to being x-rayed. The x-rays are taken as the barium flows down the esophagus and into the stomach and serves to highlight and define the areas that require examination.

Tips on Treating Oral Thrush

Antifungal medication is used in infants and older children. If the mother is infected both mother and child will require treatment. Antifungal cream will be given to the mother for her breasts. Adults usually receive antifungal lozenges or liquids. The treatment will last ten days to two weeks. Because antifungal is hard on the liver, do not be surprised if your doctor requires blood tests for monitoring.

The primary goal of oral thrush remedies is to stop the growth of the fungus. Treating oral thrush in toddlers may involve the use of antibiotics or the addition of unsweetened yogurt to the diet to balance the body’s bacteria. Drinking buttermilk is a traditional oral thrush home remedy as is eating yogurt.

Garlic has anti-fungal properties and tablets from the health food store may help during an outbreak of thrush.

Another natural antifungal is available from the same source as caprylic acid. (Do not use caprylic acid if you have ulcerative colitis.)

Any of these natural or alternative remedies have the same goals as medical treatments, to restore balance in the body and to bring the unnatural growth of the Candida albicans under control.

To Prevent Thrush Avoid Irritants

Adding yogurt to the diet is a tried and true preventative for thrush as is the use of acidophilus tablets available from the health food store. Quit smoking. Visit the dentist regularly especially if you wear dentures or have diabetes. Limit your sugar intake as well as that of yeasty foods like bread, wine, and beer. Women should treat vaginal yeast infections (especially during pregnancy) as quickly as possible to prevent outbreaks of yeast in other parts of the body including the mouth.

Don’t ignore an outbreak of thrush and allow it to spread down your throat. Thankfully, in most cases, the symptoms of oral thrush manifest quickly and with enough drama and discomfort that they cannot be ignored. The sooner you begin oral thrush treatment, the sooner you will be rid of the annoyance of the condition and the danger of it spreading and causing complications.