Lifestyle & Health : Why does he have oral thrush?

March 14, 2017

Dear Readers,

Nat is HIV-negative. He did the test recently when he developed oral thrush. He had been taking antibiotics for nearly two months, treating a prostate problem so his doctor told him that this was probably the reason why the fungus developed in his mouth.

Nat says that he had prostate problems before but he had never had thrush in the mouth before. The only times he has seen this is in babies and in an HIV-positive relative.

Nat asks Checkup when oral thrush can develop and why it develops.

Normally, the human body's immune system works to attack and repel harmful organisms that try to take up residence in the body.

When these mechanisms fail due to a weakening of the immune system, organisms like thrush, which normally inhabit the body, can overgrow areas of the body like the mouth and allow the thrush to become very visible.

Some of the conditions that allow the body to become susceptible to oral thrush are:

• Use of steroids

• Use of antibiotics


• Cancer - both the disease and treatment with radiation or chemotherapy increase the risk of oral thrush

• Untreated diabetes mellitus

• Wearing dentures

• Having conditions that cause a dry mouth

• Smoking

• Use of oral contraceptive pills

• Improper technique when using corticosteroid inhalers for asthma treatment (wash out the mouth afterwards!)

Symptoms of oral thrush may be missed for quite a while. They include creamy white lesions on the tongue, inner cheeks and roof of the mouth; raised areas with cottage cheese-like appearance and even slight bleeding if the area is rubbed.

When severe, the lesions can extend down the oesophagus and cause difficulty swallowing or food gets stuck in the throat.

Breastfeeding mothers can get their nipples infected by babies who have oral thrush and can pass this candida infection back and forth between baby and mother or between mother and a partner, who may also suckle at the breast (if he is experiencing depressed immunity).




Thrush is easy to treat in healthy people but harder to resolve in people with weak immune systems. Treatment usually involves taking antifungal medication for 10 to 14 days.

As the oral thrush infection may indicate the presence of another medical condition, the doctor may run some other tests when prescribing treatment unless he or she is convinced that they know why the infection occurred.

To prevent oral thrush, clean the teeth twice daily and denta- floss after every meal. Get regular dental checks and have the teeth cleaned every six months if possible.

Also, treat and stabilise all chronic health issues. Don't overuse mouth washes or sprays as this may upset the normal bacterial flora of the mouth.

Cut back on eating high glycaemic-content foods.

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