When most people hear the words “yeast infection”, they do not realize that a yeast infection can occur in numerous places throughout the body, for both men and women. Yes, most people are aware that a yeast infection can occur in the genital area, mostly for females, but they typically don’t realize that a yeast infection can occur anywhere on the skin, in the intestines, and also in the mouth.
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Candida albicans is a fungus that lives in our body naturally and doesn’t cause any problems as long as it stays at a safe level due to a normal healthy body working to fight bad bacteria from invading the body. The problem occurs when the body experiences an imbalance in the bacteria levels, which can be caused by a number of things. When this imbalance occurs, the Candida fungus begins to grow and it doesn’t take long before this overgrowth of fungus begins causing problems and symptoms. When this fungal overgrowth occurs in the mouth, it is known as oral thrush.
Oral thrush can occur anywhere inside of the mouth, however it typically shows up on the tongue and/or the inside of the cheeks. If it is allowed to continue to grow, it can spread to the roof of the mouth, and eventually the throat and esophagus.
Many people may not realize that they have oral thrush until it becomes painful. Oral thrush will typically exhibit symptoms of white lesions or patches on the inside of the mouth or on the tongue. When it appears on the tongue, it may feel as if you have a thick layer of something on top of the tongue that won’t come off. These patches can become painful and may eventually begin to bleed if they are rubbed or scraped.
Oral thrush typically only occurs in babies and those who wear dentures. A person who has a weakened immune system may also be more susceptible to developing oral thrush. It is possible for a baby to spread a yeast infection to the mother if she is breast feeding. If the yeast infection is not taken care of quickly, the mother and baby will continue to pass the yeast infection back and forth to one another. If white lesions appear on the inside of the mouth, medical attention should be sought as there could be an underlying cause for the oral thrush (hence, a weakened immune system) that you may not be aware of, and may require treatment.
When a person has a weakened immune system and develops oral thrush, it is imperative that medical attention be sought because the yeast infection can spread to other parts of the body. The infection could spread to the throat and esophagus which could cause difficulty eating or drinking or give a feeling of something being stuck in the throat. The infection can also spread to other areas of the body including the lungs, liver, and the digestive tract. If the infection spreads to the intestinal tract it can cause other problems including improper digestion and inadequate nutrition.
If you suspect that you may have oral thrush, look for these symptoms:
- A cottony or dry mouth feeling.
- White painful lesions or patches appearing on the inside of your mouth. These can appear on your tongue, inner cheeks, or even the roof of your mouth. These lesions may look like cottage cheese and/or bleed.
- Redness and cracking of the skin in both corners of the mouth.
- Loss of taste.
- Difficulty eating due to pain or sensitivity.
The same symptoms would occur in an infant suffering from oral thrush as well.
If you seek medical help, your doctor will most likely have the ability to identify oral thrush just from looking at it, however if it has spread to the throat, he may do a throat swab to be sure. If it has spread to your esophagus and stomach, he may need to use a lighted camera to do an endoscopic examination.
Once oral thrush has been diagnosed, your doctor may do a variety of things. If the thrush is not caused by a weakened immune system, he may simply prescribe that you eat unsweetened yogurt with live cultures to help healthy bacteria to grow instead of the bad. Depending on your health, there are various medicinal treatments that he may prescribe. Proper oral hygiene and a healthy balanced diet can help fight off oral thrush from occurring again. Proper oral hygiene will work to stop bad bacteria from growing, while a balanced diet will also help to keep good bacteria levels in balance.
Oral thrush could be a sign of an underlying illness that is causing your body to have a weakened immune system. People suffering from certain diseases such as Diabetes, Asthma, and HIV may be more prone to develop an oral yeast infection. People who wear dentures or smoke may also be more susceptible to developing thrush. A variety of things could be behind an oral yeast infection, and proper steps should be taken to rid the body of the infection before it spreads to other areas causing more severe symptoms.
If you are not sure what it is that is causing you problems on the inside of your mouth, you should always consult a physician or dentist to get a correct diagnoses. In the meantime, you can rinse your mouth out with cold water to help lessen the pain but this is in no way any type of remedy or treatment for the yeast infection; it is just to help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with oral thrush. Rinsing with saltwater may also help to soothe the mouth from the painful side effects. Steer clear of sweets or any foods that are high in carbohydrates as yeast will feed off of the carbs and sugars; staying away from these foods will starve the infection and not allow it to grow or get worse until you can get to your doctor.