|How Human are We?
According to microbiologists, only 10% of our cells are human. The rest 90% are bacteria and other lifeforms. So much for alien lifeforms on Mars.
As you are reading this, billions of different microorganisms may be moving around in your body. This may sound creepy but these microorganisms form what is known as the human microbiome. These include bacteria, fungi, and archaea. These organisms, under healthy conditions, mind their own business and live in our bodies without creating any nuisance. But due to certain factors, they start growing uncontrollably causing a full blown infection.
What is Thrush?
Thrush is an infection that occurs when Candida albicans (yeast; part of the human microbiome) starts to overgrow. Candida can be normally found in the mouth and mucous membranes such the vagina, and gastrointestinal tract. It is the mouth and vagina that are mostly affected. When the infection begins in the mouth it is known as oral thrush, and when in vagina, vaginal yeast infection.
How do you get thrush?
Candida albicans does not create any trouble under healthy conditions because it is controlled by the "good" bacteria also present in the body. But something may disrupt the normal balance of the mouth or the mucous membranes, and enable Candida to take charge, grow rampantly and start colonizing surrounding tissues. You may get thrush if you...
»...use antibiotics (these drugs kill good bacteria along with the bad ones)
»...have a compromised immune system (fails to prevent or control Candida overgrowth; infants, older adults, people with HIV, cancer patients, and those who take immunosuppressant drugs are thus more susceptible)
»...diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar may stimulate Candida growth)
»...are pregnant (hormonal changes cause imbalance in the vaginal environment)
»...have a dry mouth or use dentures
Can you get thrush from someone?
Technically no. If you are otherwise healthy, then you cannot get thrush from an infected person. You already have Candida albicans living in your body and your immune system is just doing fine to control its growth. But if you have one or more of the risk factors listed above then the odds of you getting thrush from someone else are high. Now that does not mean that the infection will be directly passed on to you. The infection will cause the yeast in your body to overgrow and then cause a full blown infection and a range of unpleasant symptoms.
Pregnant women who have vaginal thrush may give oral thrush to their babies during birth. Immune system in newborn babies takes time to become fully functional which leaves them highly vulnerable to such infections. Also, vaginal thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection. But as explained above, the infection may be passed on to the person with the above risk factors.
Thrush is treatable, and the treatment is determined by age, overall health, severity, and cause of the infection. Mild thrush in babies or adults is usually treated with topical antifungal medicines. Oral antifungals are required for a thrush that has spread to other parts of the body. Expecting mothers are advised against using oral medicines to avoid any harm to the growing fetus. Treating thrush may be a long-course affair in people suffering from chronic conditions like AIDS or those with weak immune system. This is because in such people, there is always a risk for the infection to recur.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.