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Can oral thrush be a symptom of HIV?

Posted by Be Well

Can oral thrush be a symptom of HIV?
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Rarely, oral thrush in adults can be an early sign of another condition or illness, such as HIV, cancer, diabetes or anemia.

However, if you have an oral thrush infection, it doesn't necessarily mean you have HIV, AIDS or any other condition. If your infection is related to another condition, you'll probably have other more serious symptoms as well. So it's important to see your doctor.

When your doctor assesses your symptoms, they may ask you about other infections such as vaginal thrush or balanitis. Balanitis is inflammation of the head of the penis (the glans), caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. It can be a sign of thrush.

Your doctor will also assess any other symptoms you have, to check for any other condition or illness.

If you have oral thrush, your doctor will offer you treatment. If you've been at risk of HIV infection but haven't been diagnosed, your doctor may also offer you an HIV test.

If you've already been diagnosed with HIV, you should be under the care of a specialist who will keep an eye on your immune status and arrange any treatment you need, such as antiviral medicine to help your immune system. These specialists are usually based in HIV or STD clinics, although doctors are also involved in caring for people with HIV.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can develop into AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). If you have AIDS, your immune system is severely weakened by HIV. You will therefore find it harder to fight off illness and infection.

What is oral thrush?

Oral thrush is an infection in your mouth. It's one type of a fungal infection called oral candida. The membranes in your mouth (oral mucosa) become infected with a fungus, usually Candida albicans. (Oral candida is also known as oral candidiasis.)

There are four common types of oral candida; these types have different signs. The four common types are:

  • oral thrush - also known as pseudomembranous oral candidiasis,
  • acute atrophic oral candidiasis - also known as acute erythematous oral candidiasis,
  • denture stomatitis - also known as chronic erythematous oral candidiasis and chronic atrophic oral candidiasis, and
  • chronic plaque-like oral candidiasis - also known as chronic hyperplastic oral candidiasis.

These infections are most commonly found in babies, people who wear dentures and elderly people. They are uncommon in other people, and can be a sign of another condition or illness that's not been diagnosed.

How do these infections affect people with HIV or AIDS?

Oral candida infections affect up to 48% of people with HIV and over 90% of people with AIDS.

If you have HIV and leave oral candida untreated, it can become a serious problem, lasting for months or years.

As well as oral thrush, people with HIV can develop acute atrophic oral candidiasis, another type of oral candida (see above). Sometimes this infection can develop after you have oral thrush.

People with AIDS can also develop thrush infections deeper within their bodies, for example, in their trachea, throat or lungs.

Getting help

If you think you have oral thrush, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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