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Oral thrush pictures, causes, treatment

The information provided herein does not constitute an expert or medical advice, nor intended to replace such advice.

Sexual Health

Oral thrush, or candidiasis, is an oral infection caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. In most cases, oral thrush is just a minor health problem that can be easily treated, but some factors can increase your risk for this disease.

Keep reading to discover more about oral thrush, pictures, causes, and treatment.

Oral thrush pictures

According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the most common symptoms of oral thrush or candidiasis include:

  • Thick, creamy white lesions that resemble cottage cheese
  • White plaques that can affect the oral mucosa, gums, roof of the mouth, throat, and tonsils
  • Swelling or soreness that can make it difficult to eat and swallow
  • Minor bleeding when the lesions are scraped
  • Cracking at the corners of your mouth
  • Loss of taste

Additionally, infants who develop oral thrush can have a hard time latching to the breast for breastfeeding. The infection can be passed back and forth between the baby’s mouth and the mother’s skin.

Looking at pictures of oral thrush can be very helpful to identify this condition if you ever have it. Let’s take a look at some pictures of oral candidiasis and explain the changes that are happening in each of them.

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Both of these photos show small, creamy, white plaques covering the oral mucosa. These lesions are very characteristic of oral thrush.

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This picture, on the other hand, shows the characteristics thrush plaques covering the tongue instead of the oral mucosa.

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Similarly to the last picture, this photo shows candidiasis affecting the tongue. However, this case of oral thrush is much more advanced and severe than the one pictured before. Severe candidiasis can be seen more often in immunocompromised patients.

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Additionally, oral thrush can also affect the gums and the tissue around the teeth, as we can see in the picture above.

Oral thrush causes

As we mentioned at the start of this article, oral thrush is caused by a fungus or yeast called Candida albicans. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Candida albicans is actually a normal part of your microbial flora, and it’s present in different parts of your body, such as your gastrointestinal tract, skin, and external genitals.

Oral thrush only develops when there is an imbalance in the amount of C. albicans that lives in your mouth. According to the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, our healthy bacterial flora is able to regulate C. albicans and inhibit any overgrowths. Candida infections are more likely to cause complications in patients who are immunocompromised, but they can also arise as a result of a disruption in our normal flora.

Thrush can be contagious for people with suppressed immune systems, but according to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s unusual to get thrush through kissing or other forms of close contact. According to the CDC, some people are more likely to develop oral thrush, including people who:

  • Have cancer
  • Have diabetes
  • Have HIV/AIDS
  • Have anemia
  • Have Cushing’s syndrome
  • Regularly take corticosteroids, which include some inhaled asthma medications
  • Recently took a course of antibiotics
  • Receive chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or immunosuppressant drugs
  • Wear dentures
  • Have dry mouth
  • Are at the extremes of age (babies and seniors)

In rare and severe cases, candidiasis can spread to your esophagus, which is the tubular organ that connects your mouth to your stomach. This condition is called candida esophagitis, and it typically only affects individuals who are severely immunosuppressed.

Oral thrush can also affect healthy individuals. In these cases, there are certain lifestyle factors that can increase your likelihood of developing oral thrush. According to a study published by the Postgraduate Medical Journal, these factors include:

  • A high carbohydrate diet
  • Smoking
  • Chronic high stress

Oral thrush treatment 

Fortunately, most cases of oral candidiasis respond very well to simple topical antifungal treatments. Mild to moderate cases of oral thrush are typically treated with a topical antifungal that is applied inside the mouth for 7 to 14 days. The topical medications that can be used to treat oral candidiasis include:

  • Clotrimazole
  • Miconazole
  • Nystatin

In severe cases, or in immunocompromised patients, oral thrush treatment may require oral or intravenous medications. In these instances, the treatment of choice is usually oral or IV fluconazole. However, there are other antifungal medications for patients who are allergic to fluconazole or those who don’t respond well to this treatment.

The good news is that most healthy individuals who develop oral thrush respond very well to simple topical treatments — even breastfeeding babies. It’s important to seek medical attention as soon as you notice symptoms of oral thrush so you can get treatment and feel better as quickly as possible!


Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Dec 11, 2022

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