Thrush is a yeast infection of the tongue and lining of the mouth.
Certain germs normally live in our bodies. This includes bacteria and fungi. While most germs are harmless, some can cause infection.
Thrush occurs in children and adults when too much of a fungus called Candida grows in your mouth. A small amount of this fungus normally lives in your mouth. It is usually kept in check by your immune system and other germs that also live in your mouth.
When your immune system is weak or when normal bacteria die, too much of the fungus can grow.
You are more likely to get thrush if:
Candida can also cause yeast infections in the vagina.
Symptoms of thrush include:
Your doctor or dentist can usually diagnose thrush by looking at your mouth and tongue. The sores are easy to recognize.
To confirm you have thrush, your doctor may:
In severe cases, thrush can grow in your esophagus as well. The esophagus is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. If this occurs, your doctor may:
If you get mild thrush after taking antibiotics, eat yogurt or take over-the-counter acidophilus pills. This may help restore a healthy balance of germs in your mouth.
For a more severe case of thrush, your doctor may prescribe:
Oral thrush can be cured. However, if your immune system is weak, thrush may come back or cause more serious problems.
If your immune system is weak, Candida can spread throughout your body, causing a serious infection.
This infection might affect your:
Call your doctor if:
If you get thrush often, your doctor may recommend taking antifungal medication on a regular basis to keep thrush from coming back.
If you have diabetes, you can help prevent thrush by keeping good control of your blood sugar levels.
Candidiasis - oral; Oral thrush; Fungal infection - mouth; Candida - oral
Edwards JE Jr. Candida species. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 257.
Kauffman CA. Candidiasis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 346.
Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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