Tongue Fungus Causes and Treatment

Oral thrush (oral candidiasis)

Under the term "Tongue fungus", also Oral thrush infection with the widespread yeast “Candida albicans“Understood, which is characterized by a white coating on the tongue. In most cases, other complaints such as redness, burning or swallowing difficulties appear in parallel, often there are also bloody spots under the whitish tongue nodules.

Who is at risk

In most cases, people with a weakened immune system such as babies, the elderly or patients with immunodeficiency disorders such as AIDS affected by a fungus on the tongue. In addition, other causes can be considered, e.g. Infectious diseases, diabetes mellitus or certain medications such as asthma sprays containing cortisone or antibiotics. A fungal infection on the tongue is usually harmless, but a doctor should always be consulted if the symptoms are appropriate. If the infection is recognized in good time and treated in a targeted manner, the symptoms usually subside after about a week, although various home remedies can offer effective support.

Fungus on the tongue: definition

A so-called "tongue fungus" is an infectious disease in the mouth and throat area, which is caused by certain yeasts and is medically referred to as "oral thrush". In most cases, it is the widespread fungus Candida albicans, which is found as a "harmless inhabitant" on the mucous membranes of many people. This affects primarily the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat, the genital area and the digestive tract, but colonization between the fingers and toes and on the nails is also possible. If the fungus does not spread, it does not pose any health risk per se. However, if there is an excessive, uncontrolled proliferation under certain circumstances, this can lead to very unpleasant symptoms and in some cases even to serious or life-threatening infections.

Oral thrush: symptoms

Small, milky white nodules are typical of a fungal infection on the tongue, some of which also converge to form larger, merging white spots and adhere to the tongue mucosa. The coverings can be wiped away, after which the spots can bleed easily. In addition to the tongue coating, there may be other symptoms, such as:

  • Burning mouth,
  • slight difficulty swallowing,
  • Bad breath,
  • a "furry" feeling on the tongue,
  • dry mouth,
  • Taste disorders,
  • strong thirst.

In addition, babies often show a weakness in drinking, in addition, a so-called “diaper thrush” often occurs in parallel, which leads to severe redness, pustules and oozing and open areas in the buttocks area. In rare cases, the candida infection in the mouth and tongue area also affects the esophagus. This can lead to further complaints such as heartburn, vomiting and pain behind the breastbone.

Oral thrush: causes

A tongue fungus is usually caused by an infection with the yeast Candida albicans (albicans = whitish) and in this case also referred to as "thrush" or "candidiasis". The Candida albicans does not pose any health risk per se. Instead, most people find it on healthy skin or mucous membranes and is a natural part of the oral flora. However, since the fungus spreads through the immune system and microorganisms in the mouth there are usually no complaints. This natural balance of the oral flora can, however, be confused in certain circumstances, which leads to an excessive proliferation of the Candida fungi ("opportunistic infection"). As a result, the typical white coating on the tongue develops, as the process progresses, the affected areas often become inflamed and painful.

A variety of causes can be considered for a disturbed balance of the oral flora, but mostly defenseless people such as babies or premature babies and old people or patients with congenital or acquired immunodeficiency disorders such as e.g. AIDS affected. In addition, a tongue fungus can also occur in connection with cancer (such as colon cancer, acute leukemia, Hodgkin's disease), because cancer patients are generally more susceptible to pathogens. Since the oral and tongue mucous membrane is constantly renewed, its cells also divide very frequently, which means that, like the tumor cells, they can be quickly attacked during chemotherapy or radiation.

In addition, an immune deficiency due to acute infectious diseases (pneumonia, flu, etc.), metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases or stress can occur. Even those who wear a denture are more at risk of developing tongue or oral thrush. Because the fungi find a good breeding ground under the dentures, they can quickly multiply excessively and thus lead to symptoms such as tongue coating and difficulty swallowing.

There are also other risk factors for tongue fungus such as nicotine consumption, reduced saliva production or certain medications such as Asthma sprays containing cortisone, as these impair or suppress the function of the immune system and can therefore promote infection. Treatment with antibiotics can also lead to increased fungal growth in otherwise healthy people, because these also destroy the "healthy" bacteria in the body in addition to the disease-causing ones, which has a disruptive effect on the natural balance of the oral flora.

Oral thrush in the baby

Fungus infection of the tongue is particularly common in newborns and babies, because even if the immune system is already working at birth, it is not yet fully developed at this point. Instead, in the first few years of life, it first has to “learn” to react to various environmental stimuli. Accordingly, older children rarely fall ill. An infection usually only occurs here if the natural defense is weakened or antibiotics or cortisone have to be taken over a long period of time, which disturbs the balance of the oral flora and the fungus can multiply uninhibitedly.

However, newborns often become infected during birth, because in many women the candida fungus is found in the vagina. If the baby gets outside through the vagina during the birth, it can become infected. In order to avoid an infection during childbirth, pregnant women should be treated accordingly if they suspect a vaginal yeast infection, precisely because this occurs quite often in the final stages of pregnancy.

Since the fungus is also in the mouth in adults, it can also be quickly transferred to the child if, for example, a dropped pacifier is licked. In addition, there are other sources of infection, such as insufficiently sterilized bottle teats or teething rings, in infants. Also characteristic here are whitish deposits on the tongue, which often remind of milk residues, but in contrast to these, not by drinking water or the like. are to be eliminated. Often the toppings can be wiped off at the beginning, but later they stick to the tongue. Since the fungal infection is often associated with pain, swallowing and drinking problems also appear, and a slight fever can also be observed in some cases.

Babies often experience a so-called "diaper thrush" in parallel in the butt area, because since the skin in the diaper area is very sensitive and usually warm and moist, mushrooms find an ideal breeding ground here. The thrush in the diaper area arises particularly quickly if the diaper is changed too rarely, because the skin-damaging substances from urine and stool cause sensitive baby skin to become sore even faster. If the skin is affected, the fungi quickly settle in the affected areas and lead to extremely unpleasant symptoms. At first glance, diaper thrush resembles “normal” soreness (diaper rash), but spreads further in the form of small, red pustules (eg in the area of ​​the groin). Often there are also open and oozing areas or even small blisters on the skin.

Accordingly, it is particularly important to pay particular attention to careful hygiene with babies, since they like to put all available objects in their mouths. Since dirty hands can also transmit the pathogen, mothers should always wash their hands carefully before and after breastfeeding and changing. If the child needs a pacifier, it is advisable to boil it for 20 minutes daily to thoroughly kill the fungi and to replace it after the treatment. The individual parts of breast pumps must also be boiled out every day. Likewise, all toys that can be put in the mouth should be cleaned regularly with hot, soapy water to prevent the infection from returning or being passed on to other children.

Tongue Fungus: Treatment

Tongue fungus is usually one of the more harmless diseases. Nevertheless, the general practitioner or pediatrician should always be consulted promptly (and especially for children!) So that the causes can be clarified and appropriate treatment measures can be initiated. The doctor usually prescribes special antifungal agents (antifungals) that are suitable for the mouth and throat area. These include drugs with the active ingredient amphotericin B or nystatin, which are used locally in the form of mouthwash solutions, lozenges, gels of the suspensions.

To combat the fungus, thorough oral hygiene is essential. In addition to regular tooth brushing, cleaning the tongue with a special tongue scraper is very important. With this, you can remove plaque in the back of the tongue and deprive the fungus of the food base. It is advisable to replace the toothbrush and other oral hygiene articles to minimize the risk of spreading the infection.

For this purpose, prostheses should also be inserted several times a week for disinfection in a ready-to-use chlorhexidine solution. In this context, it is also advisable to have the dentures professionally cleaned regularly by the dentist. If a breastfed baby is affected, the mother and baby must be treated at the same time to avoid transmission to the nipples. Here the pediatrician can e.g. prescribe a thrush oral gel for the baby, which the mother can also apply to her nipples. If in this case only the child or only the mother were treated, the infection would not be contained, but would be passed back and forth between the two through breastfeeding.

Oral thrush: medication

If these measures are not sufficient or if there is systemic candidiasis, the antifungals can also be taken as tablets or juice or administered intravenously. In general, when treating a fungal disease, it is important that the agents are used regularly for a certain period of time in order to reliably kill the fungi. However, if treatment is stopped prematurely, there is a risk that they will return. Accordingly, those affected should strictly adhere to the dosage requirements of the doctor.

Naturopathy therapy for tongue fungus

In addition to this, the field of alternative medicine also offers some effective procedures and applications for the treatment of a tongue fungus. Here, for example, herbal medicine recommends the use of myrrh or rataniatric tinctures, which, like antifungal agents, are dabbed directly onto the affected skin. If a normal anti-fungal agent is used at the same time, you should always consult a doctor or alternative practitioner beforehand to avoid side effects or interactions.

Due to the infection-related irritation of the mucous membranes in the mouth and throat, acidic and spicy foods and drinks should generally be avoided in order to avoid intensifying the pain. The same applies due to the slimy effect on dairy products. Since mushrooms feed on sugar, it is also advisable to avoid sugary foods and other isolated carbohydrates (white flour, starch, etc.) and alcohol during the illness.

If unpleasant bad breath occurs in the course of the tongue fungus, various natural methods can also be an effective help here. For example, a mouthwash with sage tea has proven its worth. To do this, prepare an infusion of a teaspoon of dried sage leaves and a quarter liter of boiling water and let it steep for ten minutes. Once the tea has cooled down, use it to rinse your mouth several times a day.

Rinsing with lemon water or apple cider vinegar is also recommended, as is chewing coffee beans, aniseed or ginger. Another helpful home remedy for bad breath is the so-called "pulling oil", which can be done easily and easily at home. This involves moving an tablespoon of cold-pressed sesame or sunflower oil back and forth in your mouth for about ten to 20 minutes before brushing your teeth, then pressing it through your teeth and finally spitting it out. The most important thing is that the oil is kept in the mouth long enough for it to penetrate into hard-to-reach areas and develop its antibacterial effect there.

It is central to a fungal infection that those affected recognize that this is usually due to a weakening of the natural defense. Accordingly, this is always a warning signal from the body, which should always be investigated by a careful medical examination.

At the same time, it makes sense to deal with your own life circumstances: Am I under particular stress? Do I suffer from mental stress, conflicts, worries etc.? Am I special environmental influences, conditions at the workplace or the like? exposed that could harm me? Questions like these can often help to discover possible reasons for the imbalance in the defense and to make changes in the personal area. Exercises and techniques for reducing stress such as autogenic training, yoga or meditation are helpful in many cases.

In addition, there are various home remedies and naturopathic procedures that strengthen the immune system. These include various medicinal plants such as coneflower (Echinacea), taiga root (Eleutherococcus) or the tree of life (Thuja).

Applications such as autologous blood therapy or healing with essential oils (aromatherapy) have also proven successful, as are Schüssler salts or Bach flower therapy tailored to the individual case to strengthen the natural defense.

In order to rid the body holistically and permanently of pathological yeasts, a special anti-fungal diet and, under certain circumstances, colon cleansing are also available, but these steps should also not be carried out on your own, but always first discussed with a naturopath or doctor become.

Tongue Fungus: Homeopathy

Even though homeopathy is scientifically considered to be controversial, many sufferers rely on homeopathic remedies to treat a Candida infection in the area of ​​the tongue and mouth. These include, among others, thick deposits on the tongue and bad breath Barax and Mercurius solubilis. If bad breath and tongue burning occur in connection with a slightly bleeding and swollen mucous membrane, Ratanhia can also be used. Depending on the case, potassium chloratum or thuja occidentalis can also be used. However, since the entire clinical picture of the person concerned must always be taken into account here, an experienced homeopath or a complementary medical doctor should always be consulted before taking the medication.

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Social Science Nina Reese


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  • Wolfram Sterry: Short Textbook Dermatology, Thieme, 2nd edition, 2018
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ICD codes for this disease: B37ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find yourself e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

Video: How to Treat Candida in 6 Steps. Dr. Josh Axe (November 2021).