Is thrush contagious? Prevention, complications, and treatment


What is Candida infection?

Candida infection, also known as yeast infection, can affect both men and women. It is caused by a naturally-occurring fungus called Candida albicans, which populates the digestive tract of most healthy people. When the gut bacteria balance is compromised, Candida albicans can proliferate and result in yeast infection, also called fungal infection. Yeast infection can occur in various parts of the body, including the mouth, throat, genitals, and skin.

What causes yeast infections?

The most common cause of yeast infections is an imbalance in the body’s natural gut bacteria. This delicate balance can be thrown off due to hormonal changes, poor diet or the use of certain medications, such as antibiotics. Individuals with certain health conditions, such as diabetes or HIV, are at an increased risk for developing thrush and more severe infections caused by Candida, such as Invasive Candidiasis due to their compromised immune systems. People who wear dentures, have poor oral hygiene or a dry mouth condition are more likely to get infection caused by Candida albicans.

Is Oral Thrush Contagious?

Oral Candidiasis, also called Oral thrush, is a form of infection that affects the mouth and throat. Oral thrush is not contagious, but it can be spread through intimate activities such as kissing or oral sex. It is also technically possible to get a vaginal Candidiasis after oral sex with an infected person (1).

What are the symptoms of thrush?

The most common oral thrush symptoms include the development of creamy white patches in the mouth, typically on the inner cheeks, tongue, and roof of the mouth. These creamy white lesions often have a white coating and can look like cottage cheese.

Additionally, some people may experience mouth pain or discomfort in the affected areas.

Other symptoms of oral thrush may include a metallic taste in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and a loss of taste.

In some cases, thrush infection may spread to the tonsils and rear of the throat, potentially leading to oropharyngeal Candidiasis.

Who is at risk of developing oral thrush?

High risk factors for developing thrush include:

  • weakened immune system
  • diabetes
  • HIV
  • antibiotics overuse
  • pregnancy and other hormone fluctuations
  • stress

Candida infections can affect people:

  • taking medications, including antibiotics or corticosteroids
  • have dentures or dry mouth
  • engage in unprotected oral sex with multiple partners

Are there any home remedies for oral thrush?

Although there is no scientific evidence to support them, the following home remedies may help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with oral thrush.

Here are the home remedies:

  • Rinsing the mouth with a mixture of water and baking soda
  • Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice
  • Chewing on unsweetened cranberries
  • Gargling with a mixture of water and salt
  • Eating yogurt or cottage cheese with active cultures

The first four methods use ingredients that create an acidic environment in which Candida albicans cannot survive. The yogurt method is an effective remedy to eliminate yeast infection using the beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacilli.

Keep in mind that these remedies may not be effective for everyone, and it is always best to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new treatment. These home remedies should not be use for treating severe infections, as they may not be sufficient to completely cure the infection. In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medications.

How is thrush diagnosed?

Oral thrush infection is typically diagnosed by your healthcare provider based on your symptoms and a physical examination. A swab of the infection from the inside your mouth may be taken for testing. Testing for oral thrush caused by a yeast infection is different from testing for a bacterial infection. Yeast infection testing requires following a specific protocol and the results take much longer – on average two to three weeks (2).

Vaginal yeast infection is diagnosed by an OBGYN (or urologist for males) through a physical examination and laboratory tests. During the physical examination, your doctor may take a sample of the discharge from the vagina for testing. The sample is then sent to a lab where it is examined under a microscope or cultured on a special medium to identify if the fungus Candida is present.

For males, a swab of the affected area may be taken and sent for testing to determine if a yeast infection is present.

To help diagnose the cause of your symptoms, your doctor will ask you a series of questions about both your medical and sexual history. This includes inquiring about your health conditions and whether a sexually-transmitted disease (STD) may be responsible for your symptoms.

How is thrush treated?

Treatment for oral candidiasis usually involves the use of antifungal medications. These medications can be taken orally or applied topically and may be in the form of creams, tablets, or lozenges.

In some cases, an antifungal rinse may be recommended by a healthcare provider.

Individuals with weakened immune systems, diabetes or HIV, and who have severe cases of thrush may require treatment along with lifestyle changes, such as following Candida Cleanse diet.

Visit your dentist regularly to monitor and prevent the recurrence of mouth thrush.

Peer-reviewed studies show that antifungal medications are effective in treating vaginal yeast infections (3).

Over-the-counter antifungal creams, such as Clotrimazole, are used to treat yeast diaper rash caused by Candida fungus (4).

For nursing mothers, it is important to maintain good hygiene and wash hands before each feeding session.

In conclusion, Candida thrush is a common fungal infection that can affect various parts of the body. The main cause is the imbalance in the body’s natural bacteria. The general assumption is not to consider Candida thrush contagious but to keep in mind that it can spread through an unprotected sex. High risk factors include a weakened immune system, diabetes, HIV, antibiotics overuse, taking contraception pills and prolonged stress. Symptoms of oral thrush include white, creamy patches in the mouth or throat, redness or soreness, difficulty swallowing, and a loss of taste. Treatment typically involves taking antifungal medication, and following a low-sugar diet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends talking with your healthcare provider before taking any medications.


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