What is thrush?

Small amounts of candida fungi are in your mouth, digestive tract, and skin. It's supposed to be there, and it's generally kept in check by the other bacteria in your body. But sometimes certain diseases or medications, such as corticosteroids or antibiotics, can upset the balance. This can cause the fungus to grow out of control. That's when you get a yeast infection.

Stress can cause it. It can also a number of medical conditions, such as:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • HIV infection
  • Cancer

If you smoke or wear poorly fitting dentures, you are also more likely to have a yeast infection. And babies can pass the infection to their mothers while breastfeeding.

What are the symptoms?

White, slightly raised areas in the mouth are common signs of thrush. They are usually found on the tongue or inner cheeks. They can also appear on the roof of your mouth, gums, tonsils, or at the back of your throat. These areas may look like cottage cheese. They can be painful and bleed slightly when you scrape or brush your teeth. In very serious cases, they can spread to your oesophagus and cause:

  • Pain when swallowing or difficulty swallowing
  • A feeling that food is stuck in your throat or the middle of your chest.
  • Fever, if the infection spreads beyond the oesophagus.
  • The fungus that causes yeast infection can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, and skin. This occurs more often in people with cancer, HIV, or other conditions that weaken the immune system.

How can it be treated?

Candidiasis is easy to treat in healthy children and adults. But symptoms can be worse and more difficult to treat in people with weak immune systems.

Your doctor will likely prescribe antifungal medications that you will need to take for 10 to 14 days. These come in tablets, pills, or liquids, and are generally easy to take.

Since infection can be a symptom of other medical problems, your doctor may also want to do other tests to rule them out.

How can I prevent a yeast infection?

Practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day.

Get regular dental checkups. Especially if you have diabetes or wear dentures. Even if you are healthy and have no dental problems, your dentist should clean your teeth every 6 months.

Treat chronic health problems. A condition such as HIV or diabetes can upset the balance of bacteria in your body and lead to yeast infection. If you are taking medication for an ongoing health condition, take it regularly, as directed.

Do not overuse mouthwashes or sprays. Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash once or twice a day to help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Using more than that can upset the normal balance of bacteria in your mouth.

Clean inhalers after use. If you have a medical condition such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), clean your inhalers after each use to kill germs.

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