Candida refers to a genus of yeast. These are single-celled fungi that are normally found in the body. Though the immune system keeps their population in control, an overgrowth could occur in some cases. Oral candidiasis or a mouth yeast infection occurs when the candida species infects the mucous membranes of the mouth. The following write-up provides information on this infection.
The mouth yeast infection is medically referred to as oral thrush, oral candidiasis, and oropharyngeal candidiasis. Candida overgrowth can also occur in other parts of the body such as the skin, digestive tract, and the vagina in women. Although, small amounts of candida are present in the mouth of most of the healthy people, they are kept in check by the other beneficial bacteria and microorganisms present in the body.
Sometimes, factors such as stress, prolonged use of medications, or an illness can disturb the microbial balance. This leads to an accelerated growth of the candida, resulting in an infection. A weak immune system triggers these infections, which is why the infants and the elderly are at a greater risk of developing this infection.
The onset of the symptoms may be very sudden. In some people, this infection might become chronic and difficult to control. Following are the symptoms:
- Creamy white, raised lesions that have a texture similar to that of cottage cheese appearing in the mouth
- Lesions appearing on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums, tonsils, and throat
- May bleed while brushing the teeth/when scraped or may spread to the esophagus, causing difficulty in swallowing
- A cottony feeling in the mouth
- Loss of taste
- Cracking and redness at the corners of the mouth (especially in denture wearers)
- If the infection spreads beyond the esophagus (the muscular tube from back of the mouth to the stomach), then the affected person may develop a fever.
- Infants affected by thrush may become irritable and cranky especially during nursing.
An individual affected by candida, needs to be examined by a dentist. A proper examination is followed by a microscopic examination of a tissue, taken from the lesions. In case, the infection has spread to the esophagus, throat culture or an endoscopic examination is recommended. Once the tests confirm an infection, the following treatment is usually prescribed:
- Antifungal medications are recommended for about two weeks to prevent recurrence. These are available in the form of liquids, lozenges, and tablets. Nystatin is the most popular antifungal that has proved to be effective for thrush.
- Since other underlying diseases could also cause candidiasis, the doctor may examine and treat accordingly. For example, candidiasis caused due to diabetes, would be treated by first managing the sugar level in the body. This itself will prevent its recurrence.
Some self-care methods can be followed to avoid its recurrence:
- Avoid using mouthwashes, as well as mouth sprays
- Refrain from taking foods that are high in sugar content or the ones that contain yeast (breads, wine, and beer).
- Consumption and application of plain yogurt is advisable, as the good bacteria present in it maintain the microbial balance.
- Chewing raw garlic clove is beneficial, as it bears antifungal properties, lowers the blood pressure, and also helps reducing the bad cholesterol. However, if you find it difficult to chew raw garlic, you could opt for the garlic tablets that are available at herbal stores.
- Brushing twice a day and drinking lots of water everyday is recommended, so that the bacteria are flushed out regularly.
- Avoid smoking
Making the necessary lifestyle-related changes will surely lower the incidence of such infections.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.