Content Supplied by NHS Choices

Candidiasis, oral (adults)

Symptoms of oral thrush can include sore, white patches (plaques) in the mouth, a painful, burning sensation on the tongue, an unpleasant taste in the mouth, and redness and soreness on the inside of the mouth and throat.

Symptoms of oral thrush can include:

  • sore, white patches (plaques) in the mouth that can be wiped off
  • a painful, burning sensation on the tongue
  • an unpleasant taste in the mouth that can be bitter or salty
  • redness and soreness on the inside of the mouth and throat
  • cracks at the corners of the mouth (angular cheilitis)
  • difficulty swallowing

Dentures

If you wear dentures and have oral thrush, you may develop sore, red areas in your mouth where the dentures have been. This is known as denture stomatitis and can make wearing dentures uncomfortable.

When to seek medical advice

Speak to your GP if you develop symptoms of oral thrush. If left untreated, symptoms will persist and your mouth will continue to feel uncomfortable.



Content Supplied by NHS Choices

Candidiasis, oral (adults)

Oral thrush infections are caused by increased levels of Candida albicans fungi, which are naturally present in the mouth.

Oral thrush infections are caused by increased levels of Candida albicans fungi, which are naturally present in the mouth.

This increase may result from:

  • using an inhaler to take corticosteroid medication  
  • certain medications which reduce the amount of saliva produced
  • an injury in the mouth
  • smoking 
  • the immune system being weakened (immunodeficiency)
  • an underlying health condition, such as cancer or HIV

Corticosteroids can be used to reduce inflammation (swelling) and treat a variety of conditions such as:

  • some types of cancer
  • arthritis, a condition that causes inflammation of the bones and joints 
  • eczema,  a long-term skin condition that causes itchy, dry and red cracked skin
  • asthma,  a long-term condition that causes the airways of the lungs to become inflamed and swollen
  • COPD, (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) a collective name for lung diseases (including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease) that cause breathing difficulties

Inhaled corticosteroids are often used to treat asthma. The medicine is delivered through an inhaler, or spacer, (a plastic cylinder attached to your inhaler which increases the amount of medication reaching the lungs and minimising contact with your mouth). Inhaled corticosteroids cause fewer side effects than other forms of treatment but can change acidity levels in the mouth. The change kills healthy bacteria and causes an imbalance that makes oral thrush more likely to develop.

Risk factors

You are at an increased risk of developing oral thrush if:

  • you have diabetes
  • you are a certain age (oral thrush is more common in infants and elderly people) 
  • you have high blood sugar levels
  • you wear dentures that are poorly fitted or not cleaned regularly
  • you often take antibiotics (medication used to fight infections)
  • you have an iron deficiency or B-vitamin deficiency
  • you are having treatment for cancer such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy


Content Supplied by NHS Choices

Candidiasis, oral (adults)

In most cases, your GP will be able to diagnose oral thrush simply by examining your mouth. However, some tests may also be used to confirm the diagnosis.

In most cases, your GP will be able to diagnose oral thrush simply by examining your mouth. However, some tests may also be used to confirm the diagnosis.

Your GP may recommend you have a blood test to look for certain conditions associated with oral thrush, such as diabetes and nutritional deficiencies.

biopsy may also be used. This involves taking a sample of the white patches in your mouth to check for the candida fungus under a microscope.

Your GP may also take a swab from the affected area to monitor how the fungus grows over a period of several days.



Content Supplied by NHS Choices

Candidiasis, oral (adults)

Oral thrush can be successfully treated with a course of antifungal medicines taken over seven to 14 days.

Oral thrush can be successfully treated with a course of antifungal medicines prescribed by your GP taken over seven to 14 days.

Antifungal treatments are available in the following forms:

  • gels
  • tablets
  • lozenges
  • powders
  • creams
  • rinses

Rinses are useful for people with a dry mouth who are unable to swallow antifungal tablets.

If you wear dentures, an antifungal cream can be applied to the affected area of the roof of the mouth and to the bottom of the dentures. Antifungal lozenges are also effective. 

Antifungal medicines used to treat oral thrush include:

  • miconazole
  • nystatin
  • fluconazole
  • clotrimazole
  • econazole

If antibiotics or corticosteroids are thought to be causing your oral thrush, the medicine, or the way it is delivered, may need to be changed or the dosage reduced.

Good dental hygiene and not smoking are also recommended.

Some antifungal medications should not be used if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking other medications. Your GP or pharmacist will advise you if you have any questions on how to take these treatments.

Side effects

Possible side effects of antifungal medicines include:

  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • tummy pain
  • diarrhoea 
  • headache
  • indigestion

See the topic about Antifungal medicines for more information about this type of treatment.

Share this page