Oral thrush in adults

Oral thrush is a fungal infection in the mouth. It is not a contagious disease and effectively managed using antifungal medications. The condition is also known as oral candidiasis since it is caused by a group of yeast called candida.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • White-colored patches in the mouth that can often be wiped or scraped off which leaves behind reddened areas that slightly bleed.
  • Cracks at the corners of the mouth
  • Loss or diminished sense of taste or an undesirable taste in the mouth
  • Redness within the mouth and throat
  • A sore, burning sensation in the mouth
    Oral thrush

    If the condition is not treated, the symptoms often persist and the mouth will continue to feel uncomfortable.

In some circumstances, the symptoms of oral thrush can affect drinking and eating.

When to seek further care

A doctor should be consulted if the individual develops symptoms of oral thrush. If the condition is not treated, the symptoms often persist and the mouth will continue to feel uncomfortable. In severe cases that were not treated, it is likely for the infection to spread further into the body that can be serious.

The doctor will diagnose oral thrush by assessing the mouth. Oftentimes, a blood test is recommended to check for certain conditions linked with oral thrush such as nutritional deficiencies and diabetes.

Causes of oral thrush

There is a low population of the fungus candida naturally present in the mouth and digestive tract of most individuals. The fungus will not cause any issues but can lead to oral thrush once they multiply. There are a number of reasons why this can occur such as the following:

  • Using antibiotics especially over an extended period of time or at a high dosage
  • Using inhaled corticosteroid medications for asthma
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Wearing dentures especially if they do not properly fit
  • Having dry mouth due to a health condition or medications used
  • Smoking
  • Under chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer

Infants, young children and elderly are at high risk for developing oral thrush as well as those who have underlying conditions including diabetes, underactive thyroid, iron deficiency or vitamin B12 deficiency and HIV.

Since many individuals already have candida present in the mouth, oral thrush is not contagious. It simply means that it cannot spread to others.


Oral thrush can be effectively managed with antifungal medications. These are available in gel or liquid form that is applied directly inside the mouth, but capsules or tablets are oftentimes used.

Topical medication is usually required several times a day for 7-14 days. The capsules or tablets are typically taken once a day. These medications do not often trigger side effects yet some can lead to vomiting, nausea, bloating, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

In case antibiotics or corticosteroids are known to cause oral thrush, the medication or how it is administered might be changed or the dosage is reduced.


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