Oral Candidiasis

Oral candidiasis, also commonly referred to as oral thrush, can be described as a yeast infection caused by the genus Candida. The disease affects the tongue and the mucus membranes present in the mouth. The most common type of yeast that leads to the infection is the Candida Alibicans but in some cases, Candida Glabrata or Candida Tropicalis can also cause the infection.

In case you get infected with oral candidiasis, creamy white lesions will probably appear on your tongue and your inner cheeks. This can be quite disturbing if you aren’t already familiar with the condition, but it isn’t a serious cause for concern. These lesions can be very painful and may also bleed a bit, because of friction, or if they are scraped by any food item. It is not uncommon for oral thrush to spread to the roof of the mouth, as well as the gums, the tonsils and the back of the neck.

Oral candidiasis can affect people of all ages, but it is more common in those who wear dentures. This fungal infection is also highly prevalent in children and babies as their immune systems may not have developed completely. Elderly people are susceptible to this condition too, in case of weakened immunity or, even if they are on inhaled corticosteroids. In case you are suffering from diabetes or anemia, you are at a much higher risk of getting oral candidiasis. Cigarette smoking too could be one of the factors that trigger this infection off.

For those individuals who are healthy, oral thrush is no more than a minor concern. However, for those who have compromised immunity, the development of oral thrush could be a huge problem, which may be difficult to control. Moreover, simple activities like eating, drinking, talking and brushing your teeth may also become a painful task. Moreover, when you swallow anything while suffering from oral thrush, the infection could spread to your stomach and intestines. Therefore, getting adequate nutrition is a bit difficult for those who have oral candidiasis. In addition to the digestive tract, the infection could also spread to the lungs or liver. This is why it is important to seek medical treatment and control the symptoms as early as possible.

Symptoms of Oral Candidiasis

In the initial stages, you may not recognize the symptoms for oral candidiasis, as they are fairly subtle. In many people, these signs develop rather suddenly. Yet, it is very common for the symptoms of oral candidiasis to last for a long period of time. Given below are some of the most commonly seen symptoms:

  • Loss in the sensation of taste
  • Cracking around the mouth, especially at the corners
  • Pain within the mouth
  • Appearance of creamy white lesions on the tongue, gums, inner cheeks and the tonsils or the roof of the mouth
  • Sensation of cotton being stuffed in the mouth
  • Bleeding, especially of the lesions are scraped or rubbed
  • White colored cottage cheese-like appearance on the tongue

In some severe instances, the lesions may spread towards the esophagus, causing you to feel that food is stuck in your throat or difficulties in swallowing.

The symptoms for oral candidiasis may be a bit different. In addition to the white-colored lesions, most babies appear excessively irritable because of the pain and may also face difficulties in feeding. Those babies who are being breastfed could pass the fungal infection on to their mothers and thereafter the infection may just be passed on, back and forth, between the mother and the baby. In case the mother contract the fungal infection because of oral thrush, she is likely to experience redness, itchiness, soreness, flaky skin and pain around the breasts and nipples.

It is absolutely essential to consult a doctor, as soon as any of the symptoms of oral candidiasis become evident.

Causes of Oral Candidiasis

Candida infections like oral thrush occur when a person’s immune system becomes weakened by diseases or specific kinds of drugs. Prednisone and antibiotics usually disturb the balance of the naturally occurring microorganisms in the body. The immune system usually repels any harmful organisms like bacteria, fungi and viruses that may invade the body. It maintains a balance between good and bad microbes that may inhibit the body. However, at times, the protective mechanism of the immune system may fail, which leads to infections like oral thrush. In many cases, illnesses can cause a person to suffer from this infection too. Some of the most common illnesses that could trigger off oral thrush include:

  • Vaginal Yeast Infections: The genre of fungus that cause vaginal yeast infections also lead to oral thrush. While these infections are not too dangerous, they can be passed on from a pregnant woman on to her baby, during childbirth. The newborn baby develops oral thrush as a result of this.
  • Cancer: The immune system gets weakened to a great extent, by cancer as well as the various treatment therapies and medication. This in turn increases a person’s risks of developing oral thrush.
  • Diabetes Mellitus: There are many diabetics who do not control the levels of sugar in their body. As a result, their saliva contains a high amount of sugar, which encourages the growth of oral thrush.
  • HIV/ AIDS: The virus that leads to HIV and AIDS destroy the cells of the immune system. Because of this the body loses its ability to resist the opportunistic infections that it would normally resist. In fact, one of the first signs of HIV/ AIDS is recurrent oral thrush.

Remedies for Oral Candidiasis

The treatment of oral thrush may vary, based on the age, medical condition and overall health of the person, who is infected. Health care providers may prescribe antifungal medication, but there are few side effects that have been associated with them. Fortunately, there are many simple remedies too that can help improve oral thrush. Given below are some of the most widely recommended home and natural remedies for oral thrush:

  • Garlic is believed to have antifungal and antibacterial properties, which is why it is usually recommended in getting rid of a fungal infection. The patient can either eat raw garlic or take garlic capsules for this purpose.
  • Yogurt is said to help improve the balance of the bacteria in the body and therefore, plain and unflavored yogurt improves the condition significantly. Yogurt with any amount of sugar can aggravate the condition, by encouraging the bacterial growth. For best results eating yogurt with probiotic bacteria is recommended.
  • Add 5 to 7 drops of tea tree oil to a glass of cold water and gargle with it. The solution should be allowed to touch all the parts of the mouth, but should never be swallowed. The remedy should be tried twice a day, for around 2 or 3 minutes each time.
  • Avoid using any commercial mouthwash till the infection is cured completely. In lieu of such mouthwash, equal parts of myrrh, licorice and Echinacea should be blended, for a homemade solution that you can gargle with.
  • Clean the tongue with a soft piece of cotton every day, to get rid of the white cottage cheese-like layer. To prevent bleeding, apply only mild pressure.

Diet for Oral Candidiasis

Alternate practitioners usually advise people to follow a specific diet for oral candidiasis, to control the growth of bacteria in the mouth, as well as the rest of the body. Patients suffering from oral thrush need to restrict the intake of sugar to a great extent, because it encourages the overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth. Hence, any kind of candies, chocolate, cookies, pastries, ice cream, pudding, or other desserts should be strictly avoided, or preferably eliminated from the diet, till the thrush lasts. It is also important to stay away from any food item that contains yeast, especially bread, or any type of fermented food. A diet for oral thrush should also be devoid of alcohol (beer), mushrooms, cheese and tomato paste. Given below are the food items that should be strictly avoided in case of oral thrush:

  • Acidic foods like vinegar
  • Pistachios, peanuts and peanut butter, due to mold contamination possibilities
  • Eggs
  • Milk and dairy products like cottage cheese, frozen yogurt and sour cream
  • Wheat or foods made from flour
  • Soybean or other soy products, like tempeh, tofu, soymilk and soy nuts
  • Caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, hot chocolate and sodas
  • Meat varieties like beef, veal, pork, sausage and hotdogs
  • Cold cuts or deli products
  • Shellfish and seafood varieties
  • Condiments like ketchup, soy sauce, teriyaki, barbeque or steak sauce, salad dressing and mayonnaise
  • Foods that are high in additives and preservatives

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, fruit is also high in natural sugar and can therefore support the growth of yeast. This is why, it is important to stay away from fresh, canned or frozen fruit, as well as any kind of fruit juice.

Suggestion for Oral Candidiasis

Although oral thrush is not a particularly serious condition, it can lead to pain, discomfort and a lot of complications. Therefore, it is best to take the appropriate steps to prevent the infection. Fortunately, there are several simple steps that can help reduce the risks of oral thrush.

People who wear dentures or have diabetes are more prone to this infection and therefore, should schedule regular dental checkups. The dentist can also recommend a dental routine which can reduce the chances of developing thrush.

It is also advisable for those who suffer from compromised immunity, to check with a doctor for ways to prevent candida infections.

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