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Oral Yeast Infections - Causes, Symtpoms, Treatment and Prevention
Oral Yeast Infections Introduction
An oral yeast infection, quite simply, is a yeast infection that takes place in the mouth.
Oral yeast infections are a fairly common childhood disease, but don't often tend to affect adults much without some outside cause.
Oral yeast infections can make the simple task of living and eating every day miserable, so if you're prone to them it helps to find out as much as you can.
The proper definition of oral yeast infection: Oral candidiasis is defined specifically as an infection of yeast fungi of the Candida family on the mucous membranes of the mouth.
This distinction is important because it means that the Candida hasn't gotten into the tooth cavities or into the blood. These yeast infections are most often caused by Candida albicans, but Candida glabrata or Candida tropicalis are also seen often enough to count as causes instead of aberrations.
In truth, any member of the Candida family can grow in the mouth, those three are just the most common oral yeast infections.
Oral yeast infections are also known as oral thrush, candidosis or moniliasis.
Candida yeasts used to be classified under the name Monilia, so moniliasis is still sometimes used, especially in older texts or by older medical professionals who learned it that way in school.
Oral Yeast Infections Causes
Candida organisms are absolutely everywhere in the environment. People who are at risk for oral candidiasis get it because something in their immune system leaves them open to the infection, not just because they're exposed to it.
Over half the population is estimated to be carrying Candida organisms around in their mouths without developing an active oral yeast infection, so the mere presence of the yeast isn't enough to qualify as a health problem that needs treating.
A suppressed immune system can cause oral yeast infection
People who are at risk of oral yeast infection, because of systemic immune problems, include people who have immunosuppressant diseases, people who take immunosuppressant medications, or people who don't have the body reserves to supply their immune systems with enough fuel to work up to par.
Oral yeast infection is often a sign of disease flare up in people who have diseases that interfere with the immune system as a whole.
These diseases include HIV/AIDS, some forms of cancer such as leukemia, endocrine abnormalities, active diabetes mellitus, hypo- or hyperthyroidism, and hypoadrenalism. Anyone with these health problems should watch their health carefully, as they usually already know.
More importantly, a sudden and severe outbreak of an oral yeast infection can be caused by / indicate that the underlying disease has entered a severe flare-up or even a more aggressive phase, so it should be paid attention to with all care.
For people who take immunosuppressant medications, oral yeast infection can indicate that the medication is having too severe a response.
Of course, some people are going to need to take the medication anyway, such as those who need it for organ transplant or people on chemotherapy for cancer. However, the aim and goal of most immune-suppressing medications is not to completely neutralize the immune system, but only to keep that immune system from rejecting something the body needs.
Corticosteroids and non steroidal anti-inflammatories both modify the immune system's response to invaders, so these medications can cause problems with oral yeast infection, even though they're relatively common and usually safe.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause oral yeast infection
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the exceptions to this rule, as the point and purpose of both of these is to poison a cancerous tumor.
Of course, the whole theory is predicated on the tumor dying of the poison before the rest of the body does.
Because cancer therapy is based on poison, it's going to have negative effects on the body.
In any case, severe oral yeast infection can serve as a sign that the medication is going too far and should be examined closely to ensure it's still necessary at the current level of administration.
Old age, infancy and pregnancy can cause oral yeast infection
Old age, infancy and pregnancy are all relatively normal health conditions that can raise the chances for contracting an oral yeast infection.
The reason that the elderly, pregnant women and children are more likely to get these annoying oral yeast infection is due to a number of factors.
The most prevalent, though, is a lack of immune response due to fatigue, stress, or simple lack of bodily reserves.
There are also quite a few things that affect the local oral environment that can make an oral yeast infection more likely.
Liquid antibiotics, corticosteroid inhalers often used to control asthma, and simple poor dental hygiene can all create an opening in the mouth for a oral yeast infection to invade and multiply.
Dentures or braces can often cause problems both because they provide an environment where Candida may be able to get a foothold and because they can cause breaks in the mucous membranes that let a oral yeast infection take hold.
Malnutrition, in particular iron, folic acid and vitamin deficiencies, can allow an oral yeast infection the opening it needs, as can acidic saliva, carbohydrate rich diets, and even smoking.
All of these factors can alter the natural function of the mouth far enough to allow an oral yeast infection to get in.
Oral Yeast Infections Symptoms + Photo
The symptoms of oral yeast infection are usually pretty distinctive, as can be seen from the picture photo of an active oral yeast infection below.
You'll see thick, white or cream colored deposits on the mucous membranes of the mouth.
These deposits have often been described as looking like cottage cheese sticking to the inside of the mouth. If they're scraped at, they'll usually bleed and hurt.
In addition, an oral yeast infection will often cause redness, inflammation, pain and burning.
The tongue and the inside of the cheeks are the most common places for these oral yeast infection deposits to appear.
While it's less common, they can also show up on the gums, the roof of the mouth, on the tonsils, on the back of the throat and even down into the esophagus.
If an oral yeast infection should spread to the esophagus, it will usually cause pain when swallowing and/or the constant feeling of food being stuck in the throat or chest.
If it gets beyond the esophagus, it's generally considered to have gone systemic. The symptoms of full blown candidemia will usually show up shortly and mean you need to go to the emergency room.
Angular chelitis is another variation on an oral yeast infection that often appears in conjunction with infection inside the mouth.
This problem occurs on the outside of the lips or at the corners of the mouth, and it looks like red, eroded fissures that are irritated and painful.
This can be a danger signal in cases of immunosuppression, but it can also occur on people who lick their lips a lot or otherwise keep them moist.
It's not dangerous in and of itself, although the oral yeast infection can be quite uncomfortable and impair your social life a lot.
Oral Yeast Infections Treatments and Prevention
For normal oral yeast infections, where you don't have any other immune problems that put you at risk for systemic candidemia, the first line of defense will usually be local anti-fungal medications.
Nystatin mouthwash or azole-class lozenges will often be prescribed for oral yeast infection, and you should let them sit in the mouth for as long as directed.
For oral yeast infection associated with dentures, an ointment or cream will often be prescribed. You're generally supposed to coat the surface of the dentures that touches the mouth with the cream after every meal, and your doctor will also give you new ways to clean your dentures so you don't develop oral yeast infection again.
If you suffer from one of the immunosuppressant diseases or have to take a medication that compromises the immune system, pay close attention to any and all oral yeast infections. It's way too close to your brain to ignore, and you can develop systemic yeast problems in short order. Talk to your doctor to find the best method of managing both your oral yeast infection and your long-term problem in the best way for you and your circumstances.
Babies will often get oral yeast infection from bottles or breastfeeding.
The baby will be given an antifungal ointment, and if the child is breastfeeding, Mom will also get an ointment for her nipples. It's important that both medications be used for the entire duration for which they're prescribed to keep from giving the infection back and forth. Furthermore, if the child uses bottles or pacifiers, they should be washed and sterilized on a regular basis. Don't let a child put something like a bottle or pacifier back in their mouths if it's been out for more than an hour.
Otherwise, at home you should work on keeping up with dental hygiene.
If you find that you're particularly prone to oral yeast infections, you may want to make that a permanent change.
Oral Yeast Infections Conclusion
Oral yeast infections aren't usually serious in and of themselves.
However, like every other kind of yeast infection, if you get oral yeast infections over and over again it's a sign that something is seriously wrong.
Listen to what the symptoms are trying to tell you instead of ignoring the base problem, investigate long enough to find out the real cause, and you shouldn't be troubled by oral yeast infections again.
References used for Oral Yeast Infections
Taber's Medical Encyclopedia
Bunetel L, Bonnaure-Mallet M. Oral pathoses caused by Candida albicans during chemotherapy: update on development mechanisms. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod 1996
Lynch DP. Oral candidiasis. History, classification, and clinical presentation. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 1994;78:2, 189-93.
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