Thrush is a fungal infection of the mouth caused by an overgrowth of the yeast organism Candida albicans. Thrush usually begins on the tongue and inside of the cheeks and may spread to the palate, gums, tonsils, and throat. In severe cases, the infection may spread to the larynx (voice box), digestive tract, respiratory system, or skin.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Many microorganisms live in the mouth, including yeast and bacteria. Thrush occurs when the normal balance of these organisms is upset. This allows an overgrowth of Candida to occur.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. In this case, your risk factors are:
The symptoms of thrush occur in the mouth. Symptoms include:
If the infection spreads down your esophagus, you may also experience:
If thrush spreads systemically, you may develop a fever.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and examine your mouth. A sample of cells from the affected area may be scraped off and examined under a microscope.
The goal of treatment is to restore the normal balance of bacteria and yeast in the mouth. Treatments may include:
Thrush may be treated with lozenges, troches (a type of lozenge that dissolves in your mouth), tablets, or oral rinses, which you swish around your mouth and then swallow. Medications that are active against yeast include:
Breastfeeding mothers of babies with thrush can use a topical antifungal medication on their nipples to reduce the baby's infection.
Underlying conditions that may contribute to thrush can be identified and treated.
Oral hygiene practices that may aid in healing include:
If you are diagnosed with thrush, follow your doctor's instructions.
Some preventive measures can be taken to reduce your risk of thrush.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Canadian Dental Association
Canadian HIV/AIDS Information Centre
Beers MH. The Merck Manual of Medical Information—Home Edition . 18th ed. Pocket Books; 2006.
Berkow R. The Merck Manual of Medical Information—Home Edition . Pocket Books; 1999.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov . Accessed July 7, 2009.
Cohen & Powderly: Infectious Diseases . 2nd ed. Mosby; 2005.
Greenspan D, Greenspan JS. HIV-related oral disease. Lancet ; 1996.
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.nfid.org . Accessed July 7, 2009.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/ . Accessed July 7, 2009.
A prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial evaluating the effects of nystatin on the development of oral irritation in patients receiving high-dose intravenous interleukin-2. Journal of Immunotherapy ; 2001.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 11/12/2012