Oral thrush is a very common fungal infection caused by Candida albicans. There are a number of risk factors for thrush, but it is especially common in infants. While thrush can be very uncomfortable and unsightly, however, it can be treated relatively easily as soon as the symptoms are recognized and addressed by a qualified health care professional.
Identifying thrush lesions. Thrush can vary in appearance from a few scattered white spots in the back of the throat to a mold-like covering over the entire mouth. According to the Mayo Clinic, “In severe cases, the lesions may spread downward into your esophagus — the long, muscular tube stretching from the back of your mouth to your stomach (Candida esophagitis).” These lesions may be uncomfortable or painful to the touch and may scrape off relatively easily. Skin underneath a scraped lesion will be red, sore and probably bleeding slightly.
Other symptoms. If you have thrush, you may feel like you have cotton balls in your mouth, and chewing may be painful. Oral dryness may make it difficult to swallow, especially if the infection has spread down your throat. In addition, thrush in the throat can make it feel like food gets stuck on its way down. You may lose some or all of your sense of taste. In some cases, the corners of your mouth may also crack and bleed.
Signs to watch for in babies. While it’s easy to pinpoint things that aren’t quite right for yourself, it can be very difficult to determine when a very young infant has problems. Because thrush often appears at the back of the throat, you may not be able to see it in the earlier stages. A baby with thrush will generally be fussier, especially around mealtimes, and may have difficulty swallowing. If a baby is uncomfortable enough, he or she may refuse to nurse or may eat significantly less at mealtimes. Your doctor will be able to determine if there is a real problem and should be consulted immediately. Bear in mind that thrush can spread from baby to mother and back again through breastfeeding, so if you’re nursing, then most likely you will both have to undergo treatment.