Yeast is a type of fungus that's naturally present in your body, but when it grows out of control it can cause an infection. Thrush is a common name for a mouth and genital infection caused by the Candida albicans fungus. Candida normally lives in the mouth, throat, and the rest of the digestive tract without causing any problems. But if the conditions are right, this fungus can grow out of control and cause thrush.
So what causes thrush? How do you treat it? And what can you do to prevent it from coming back? Read on to find out.
What is Thrush?
Thrush is an infection caused by the Candida albicans fungus, a type of yeast that's normally present in your digestive tract. This fungus can grow out of control due to a number of different factors, but the most common is taking antibiotics.
Thrush causes white, creamy-looking patches to form on your tongue and in your mouth. These patches can sometimes be sore or slightly raised. You may also have a sore throat and a fever, and your mouth may be red and inflamed.
If the thrush is severe, it can spread to your esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach). This can cause difficulty swallowing and chest pain.
Thrush can also exist on the genital region in both men and women, causing itching, burning and sometimes a discharge. In women, thrush can also cause a vaginal yeast infection.
What Causes Thrush?
The most common cause of thrush is taking antibiotics. These drugs kill off the good bacteria in your body that normally keep the Candida albicans fungus in check.
Other factors that can lead to thrush include:
- Diseases that weaken the immune system, such as cancer or HIV/AIDS
- Dry mouth
- Mouth injuries
- Dentures that don't fit properly
Is Thrush Contagious?
Thrush is not considered contagious, but the fungus that causes thrush can be passed from person to person. However, it can only be passed if there is bodily contact with the fungus. If someone with thrush kisses someone else, the other person will not automatically get thrush, nor is it considered a sexually transmitted infection. When thrush is present in an infant, it can be passed to the mother during breastfeeding.
Thrush and the Genitals
For both men and women, thrush can cause itching, burning and soreness of the genitals. In men, thrush can cause a rash on the penis. In women, thrush can cause a vaginal discharge that is white, thick and lumpy. Thrush can also cause pain when urinating or during sex.
Men with thrush may have a discharge from the penis that is white, thick and lumpy, if they have any discharge at all. They may also have burning and itching of the penis, and pain when urinating. These symptoms can be painful and can make it difficult to urinate.
For men, symptoms include:
- Difficulty to retract the foreskin
- Burning and itching of the penis
- Rash on the penis
- White, thick and lumpy discharge from the penis
- Pain when urinating
How is Thrush Treated?
Thrush is treated with oral antifungal medications, such as nystatin or fluconazole. The length of treatment depends on the severity of the infection, and how well the person responds to medication. Medication may need to be taken for several weeks.
People with weakened immune systems may need to take medication for several months, and may need to be treated more than once. When thrush affects babies, it is important to treat both the baby and the mother, even if the mother does not have any symptoms.
- Oral antifungal medications, such as nystatin (Mycostatin), fluconazole (Diflucan), ketoconazole (Nizoral), or itraconazole (Sporanox)
- Topical antifungal medications, such as clotrimazole (Lotrimin), nystatin (Mycostatin), or ketoconazole (Nizoral), which are applied to the mouth and throat
- Probiotics, which are live microorganisms that are similar to the healthy bacteria that are found in the gut
- A diet that is low in sugar and yeast
- Good oral hygiene, including brushing the teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and using a mouth rinse
- Avoiding mouthwashes that contain alcohol
- Avoiding tobacco products
Home remedies, such as rinsing the mouth with salt water or using a mouthwash that contains baking soda, may help to relieve symptoms. But, these home remedies are not as effective as medication, and they are not recommended for treating a severe thrush infection.
This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.