Thrush is a yeast infection of the tongue and lining of the mouth.
Certain germs normally live in our bodies. This includes bacteria and fungi. While most germs are harmless, some can cause infection under certain conditions.
Thrush occurs in children and adults when conditions permit too much growth of a fungus called candida in your mouth. A small amount of this fungus normally lives in your mouth. It is most often kept in check by your immune system and other germs that also live in your mouth.
When your immune system is weak or when normal bacteria die, too much of the fungus can grow.
You are more likely to get thrush if:
Candida can also cause yeast infections in the vagina.
Thrush in newborns is somewhat common and easy to treat.
Symptoms of thrush include:
Your health care provider or dentist can usually diagnose thrush by looking at your mouth and tongue. The sores are easy to recognize.
To confirm you have thrush, your provider may:
In severe cases, thrush can grow in your esophagus as well. The esophagus is the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. If this occurs, your provider may:
If you get mild thrush after taking antibiotics, eat yogurt or take over-the-counter acidophilus pills. This may help restore a healthy balance of germs in your mouth.
For a more severe case of thrush, your doctor may prescribe:
Oral thrush can be cured. However, if your immune system is weak, thrush may come back or cause more serious problems.
If your immune system is weakened, candida can spread throughout your body, causing a serious infection.
This infection might affect your:
Call your provider if:
If you get thrush often, your provider may recommend taking antifungal medicine on a regular basis to keep thrush from coming back.
If you have diabetes mellitus, you can help prevent thrush by keeping good control of your blood sugar levels.
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.