What is candidiasis?
Candidiasis, also known as oral thrush, is a fungal infection caused by yeasts from the genus Candida. The fungus candida accumulates in the lining of the mouth and may spread to the roof of the mouth, gums or tonsils, or the back of the throat.
There are over 20 species of Candida yeasts that can cause infection in humans, the most common of which is Candida albicans. These yeasts are normally found in the mouth; however, overgrowth of these fungi can cause symptoms to develop.1
What causes candidiasis?
Normally, the immune system is capable of fighting the different viruses, bacteria and fungi that attack the body. However, when the immune system is weakened, infections can occur. Certain diseases, medications and antibiotics may weaken the immune system and make a person more prone to develop candidiasis such as:2
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) damages the immune system and makes a person more susceptible to opportunistic infections.
- Cancer: Chemotherapy and radiations weaken the immune system and increase the risk of candidiasis.
- Diabetes mellitus: High levels of sugar in the saliva due to untreated diabetes encourage the growth of fungi.
- Vaginal yeast infections: Vaginal yeast infections are caused by the same fungus that causes candidiasis.
What are the risk factors for candidiasis?
Anyone can develop candidiasis, but the infection is more common in certain people. Risk factors include:3
- Age: Infants or elderly are more prone to develop candidiasis
- Undergoing radiation or chemotherapy treatment
- Having a weakened immune system
- Having diabetes
- Taking antibiotic treatment
- Taking asthma inhalers with steroid medication
What are the symptoms of candidiasis?
Signs and symptoms of candidiasis may include:4
- White patches on the tongues, cheeks and sometimes on the roof of the mouth
- White tongue
- Dry mouth
- Strange or unpleasant taste in mouth
- Bad breath
- Soreness in teeth
- Cracking at the outer edges of the lips.
How is candidiasis diagnosed?
Tests to diagnose candidiasis include:5
- Physical examination: The doctor can usually diagnose candidiasis by examining the mouth and tongue.
- Throat culture: The doctor scarps a sample of a mouth sore and examines it under a microscope.
- Endoscopic examination: If the candidiasis has grown in the esophagus, the doctor will use a scope to examine the esophagus and stomach.
How is candidiasis treated?
The treatment of candidiasis consists of antifungal medications. This comes in several forms, including lozenges, tablets, or a liquid that a patient swish in the mouth and then swallow.6
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/ (Accessed February 28, 2016)
- Causes http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/oral-thrush/basics/causes/con-20022381 (Accessed February 28, 2016)
- WebMD http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/candidiasis-yeast-infection (Accessed February 28, 2016)
- MedicineNet http://www.medicinenet.com/thrush/page5.htm (Accessed February 28, 2016)
- S National Library of Medicine https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000626.htm (Accessed February 28, 2016)
- Treatments and drugs http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/oral-thrush/basics/treatment/con-20022381 (Accessed February 28, 2016)