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Exams and Tests
A visual exam is usually all that is needed to diagnose thrush. In addition to looking in your mouth, your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history.
In rare cases, your doctor may order a KOH test in which one of the white patches is scraped and examined. A KOH test is used only in cases when thrush is not clearly evident by visual exam.
A fungal culture may be done when a diagnosed case of thrush is not responding to prescribed medicines.
Thrush is a yeast infection that can develop in the mouth and throat and on the tongue. Thrush is most common in newborns, infants, and older adults, but it can occur at any age. In healthy newborns and infants, thrush is usually not a serious problem and is easily treated and cured.
Except for the mildest cases, you should treat thrush to keep the infection from spreading. Prescribed antifungal medicines, which slow down the growth of yeast, are the standard treatment for thrush. Thrush is most commonly treated with medicines that are either applied directly to the affected area (topical) or swallowed (oral).
In adults, mild cases of thrush may clear up with simple treatment that can be done at home. This treatment usually involves using an antifungal mouth rinse or lozenges. Treatment usually lasts about 14 days.
Mild thrush in infants is usually treated with topical medicines until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have gone away.
Moderate to severe thrush
More severe thrush infections that have spread to the esophagus are treated with an oral antifungal medicine. A topical antifungal medicine may also be used.
For some severe infections, a treatment period longer than 14 days may be needed.
Oral antifungal medicines are almost never used during pregnancy, because the fetus may be harmed. But if a pregnant woman has a rare, severe thrush infection, oral antifungal medicines may be used. In this case, the risk of harm to the mother and fetus from the severe thrush infection may be greater than the risk posed by the use of antifungal medicines.
Persistent or recurrent thrush
Persistent or recurrent cases of thrush may:
People with weakened immune systems can take an antifungal medicine on a continuous basis to prevent thrush infections.
It is very important to get rid of any sources of infection, or thrush will continue to come back. Do this by cleaning toys, pacifiers, bottles, and other items a child may put in his or her mouth or share with another child. For more information, see Prevention.
It is important to treat conditions that make you more likely to get thrush, such as diabetes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or cancer. For more information, see the Prevention section of this topic.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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