What is Thrush?
Thrush is a fungal disease caused by infection with a yeast like organism, Candida. Hence, the disease is also called Candidiasis. Thrush can affect people of all age groups, though it is most commonly seen in children and women. In adults, chronic candidasis or thrush is more common amongst people with weakened immune systems.
There are two main types of thrush - oral and vaginal. Oral thrush is mainly noticed among children and is considered normal unless the infection persists longer than 2 weeks. In women, viaginal thrush is pretty common and in some this is chronic and the infections relapses from time to time.
The disease is much more common in women, but this doesnt mean that it doesnt affect men. Men who have this disease usually are carriers without themselves experiencing too many symptoms. Furtermore, thrush is more common in uncircumsized men than otherwise.
Thrush is almost never serious but can cause considerable discomforts - fortunately treating it is relatively simple and the infection can be treated in the folowing ways:
- Oral medications like Fluconazole that is very effective in treating the infection internally. These tablets are 'prescription only medications' (POM).
- Antifungal Creams like miconazole - administered directly on the infected area. Women suffering from vaginal thrush will have to apply the cream around the vagina and vulva region to reduce symptoms.
- Vaginal tablets are also effective treatment options.
Causes of Thrush Infection
Thrush is caused by a fungus or yeast. The most common thrush-causing fungus is known as Candida albicans, which causes roughly 80-90 % of thrush infections. Other types of fungi that cause thrush are Candida tropicalis or Candida glabrata. Thrush is also known as Candidosis or Moniliasis. Oral thrush affects the mouth while vaginal thrush affects the vaginal area.
Normally in the body, Candida grows normally in small amounts especially in the mouth, vagina and other mucous membranes and causes no harm. However, when conditions become favorable, the yeast grows uncontrollably, causing the symptoms of thrush to appear.
In these mucous membranes, different types of bacteria are present that control the growth of the Candida. In rare occasions, other bacteria or substances get into the mucous membranes such as in the mouth and vagina disrupting the balance of the already existing organisms. This allows the Candida to overgrow since it is not controlled anymore.
Weakened immune system
Thrush can result due to a weakened immune system. This causes an impaired ability to fight infection and prevent Candida from overgrowing. A weak immune system is common in infants since theirs is not fully developed especially during the first weeks of life. In adults, the immune system may be weakened by certain conditions or diseases causing thrush. Such conditions include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. It is recorded that over 90 % of the people with AIDS have thrush or develop thrush. A weakened immune system may also result from chemotherapy and physical or emotional stress.
Diabetes also makes one prone to thrush. This is because high blood sugar levels promote the overgrowth of yeast. The blood glucose levels are normally kept under control through medication and injections. However, if poorly controlled and the blood glucose level does not stay stable, thrush develops.
Other causes of thrush include the taking of antibiotics of inhaled corticosteroid medicines. Antibiotics get rid of friendly bacteria in the mouth and vagina. Thus such medicines may cause an upset in the balance of bacteria leading to the overgrowth of fungi in those areas.
Pregnancy and periods
Pregnancy increases the risk of one developing thrush. This is due to the hormonal changes that occur which may also lead to an alteration in the balance of bacteria in the body, thus creating enabling condition for the overgrowth of yeast. Monthly periods on the other hand causes a change in the acidity of the vagina due to the menstrual blood flow. Keeping sanitary wear for long will alter the pH balance thus providing a moist and warm environment that enables multiplication of yeast.
Other conditions that may also lead to development of thrush include the use of excessive mouthwash which tends to kill mouth bacteria and wearing of dentures that are especially not cleaned or fit properly. Certain external factors may also cause thrush. Such include sexual intercourse, use of perfumed soaps and bubble baths and wearing of tight synthetic clothing.