Infection of the mouth and throat by the fungus Candida albicans is known as thrush. The same fungus may infect other parts of the body, resulting in diseases like diaper rash and vaginal yeast infections. Candida infections are seen in children, older adults, and those with weak immune system. The symptoms are more serious in people with compromised immune systems.
Symptoms of thrush are caused by the overgrowth of the fungus. These fungi are normal inhabitants of our digestive tract and are kept in a balance in healthy people. This delicate balance is affected by different factors, like stress, illnesses, and certain medications.
The illnesses that may increase the risk of developing thrush include:
- HIV/AIDS – The weak immune system in this infection results in repeated thrush infections in the affected people.
- Cancer – Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation weakens the immune system allowing the fungus to spread the infections.
- Diabetes mellitus – Growth of the fungi is favored by increased levels of sugar in the saliva, which is characteristic of this illness.
- Vaginal yeast infections – These infections are also caused by the same fungus that cause thrush.
Some of the medications that increase the risk of this fungal infection include antibiotics and corticosteroids. Birth control pills are also known to enhance the risk of getting this infection. Those who wear ill-fitting dentures and those who smoke also have increased chances of developing thrush.
The most characteristic symptoms of this infection are the presence of white, cheesy lesions in the inner lining of cheeks and tongue. These lesions may sometimes be seen on the roof of the mouth, gums, and even the throat. These lesions may be painful at times, and in some cases, may bleed upon brushing or scraping. The symptoms appear suddenly with infection, and may persist into a chronic condition. If left untreated, the symptoms may develop into a serious condition where the lesions may spread to esophagus.
Some of the most common symptoms other than lesions include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain while swallowing
- Cracking and reddishness at the corners of the mouth
- Feeling of food being stuck in the throat
- Loss of taste
If the infection spreads to other parts of the body, fever may be seen as a symptom. Fungal infections can spread to parts like lungs and liver as well. Seek medical attention if you have any of the symptoms of this condition to rule out the possibility of underlying medical conditions.