Thrush, also called candidiasis, is a fungal infection by any of the Candida species of yeasts. Candida albicans is the most common cause of the infection. The symptoms of thrush differ depending on the type and severity of the infection. Yeast infections of the mouth or genitals are superficial, and can typically be easily treated, while fungemia or candidemia, a fungal infection of the blood, is a much more severe condition, usually affecting those with compromised immune systems. Oral and genital candidiasis can also be serious when they are chronic.
Usually, thrush only refers to superficial infections, often only to oral candidiasis. Genital yeast infections, also called vaginitis though they can affect males as well as females, are sometimes called vaginal or genital thrush. Oral thrush is characterized by white patches in the mouth and throat and on the tongue. The condition most often affects babies.
Vaginal thrush is often characterized by a white, cottage-cheese-like, odorless discharge. Men suffering from genital candidiasis may not show any symptoms at all, and may develop a more serious condition later. However, some men experience symptoms of thrush including red sores, itching, and burning on the genitalia. The symptoms of thrush affecting the genitals are similar to those of many different types of infection, so it is important to determine the cause of the symptoms before following treatment. The symptoms associated with vaginal thrush are more often caused by bacterial infection.
Symptoms of thrush can also affect the corners of the mouth in angular cheilitis, the anal region in perianal candidiasis, the cuticles in candidal paronychia, between the fingers in erosio interdigitalis blastomycetica, and other folds of the skin in candidal intertrigo. Candidiasis can also be caused by antibiotic use, as it can kill helpful bacteria that keep fungal growth in check. The symptoms of superficial thrush include rash, itching, and burning regardless of the particular area affected.
Candidemia or systemic candidiasis is not usually referred to as thrush, though it is caused by the same fungus. Symptoms include generalized pain, fatigue, mental disorders, and skin infections. Candidemia is treated with prescription antifungal medication.