- Lip fungus is caused by an overgrowth of yeast called Candida albicans
- Symptoms include creamy white lesions on the tongue and inner cheeks, burning, redness and soreness
- Prescription antifungal medication is required to prevent the spread of the yeast and to clear the infection
- Anyone can develop a lip fungus, but it is more common in people with a compromised immune system, an underlying health condition or due to certain medications
Lip fungus, or oral thrush, is an infection that develops due to the overgrowth of Candida albicans, a yeast that is naturally present within the mouth and the gastrointestinal tract. Treatment requires a prescribed antifungal medication that is available in several forms and strengths. Some at-home treatments have been shown to have the necessary properties to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms and prevent the spread of infection.
What Is Lip Fungus?
Lip fungus is an infection primarily caused by the overgrowth of a yeast called C. albicans. Normally present in the mouth, multiplication of this yeast colonizes the oral cavity causing an invasive infection.
In addition to C. albicans, C. glabrata, C. tropicalis, C. parapsilosis and C. krusei species are also known to cause this infection.
Anyone can develop a lip fungus infection, but it is usually determined by a preexisting condition or a weakened immune system which can’t keep yeast levels in check.
As one example, this is the most common oral infection found in people infected with the HIV virus, in those with an underlying disease such as diabetes or in situations that encourage proliferation, such as lengthy hospital stays.
C. albicans infection is therefore considered an opportunistic infection, multiplying in a favorable environment such as within immunocompromised individuals, where it overtakes the normal oral flora.
Symptoms and diagnosis
Lip fungus is diagnosed simply through a visible inspection; it presents with the following symptoms:
- Cracks at the corners of the mouth
- Foul taste
- White to yellow lesions with a cottage-cheese like appearance on the tongue and inner cheeks; sometimes on the roof of the mouth and gums
- Pain and difficulty swallowing for severe cases
- Redness, burning or soreness; sometimes severe
What Causes Lip Fungus?
The mouth is home to a plethora of organisms including fungi, protozoa and viruses that together, comprise a normal flora. Saliva, too, plays a key role in maintaining a stable environment. In addition, there are several yeasts that are normally present, especially C. albicans which have been identified in 40%–60% of healthy adults.
When this ecosystem becomes unbalanced, an overgrowth of yeast develops, resulting in lip fungus.
Other causes include:
- Antibiotic and corticosteroid use
- Badly-fitting oral appliances
- Deficient diet
- Endocrine disorder
- Inadequate oral hygiene
Lip Fungus Prevention
The best way to prevent a lip fungus infection is to follow a specific care routine that includes properly brushing your teeth, receiving yearly dental check-ups, and wearing properly-fitted and cleansed dentures, if applicable.
Eat a well-balanced diet to achieve overall good health and to maintain equilibrium in the oral microdome. This would include high-fiber and whole foods, as well as fruits and vegetables.
Avoid a high carbohydrate diet and especially refined sugar; one study found that higher glucose consumption increased Candida growth while sugar in the form of fructose—which is found in fruits and vegetables—could effectively inhibit growth.
Fermented foods and beverages are produced through controlled microbial growth. Consuming these types of foods have become popular of late; it is purported that following a diet rich in fermented foods will provide beneficial bacteria in the form of probiotics to your body. These include:
- Yogurt (labeled as active or with live cultures)
However, there is little scientific research to support this; the exception is kefir, which has been shown to be effective against microbes, including C. albicans.
Treatment will depend on your age, health status, severity, and length of time you have the lip fungus. A prescription for an antifungal agent is necessary to resolve this infection; they are available in tablet, lozenge and liquid form.
- Clotrimazole (Mycelex Troche) lozenges can be slowly dissolved in the mouth to prevent and treat infections
- Nystatin (Nystop, Nyata) is an antifungal mouthwash that can effectively treat lip fungus, and is safe as it does not enter the bloodstream
- Fluconazole (Diflucan) is a well-known medication that can be used alone or alongside other medications
- For treatment-resistant lip fungus, your doctor may prescribe itraconazole oral solution, posaconazole suspension or voriconazole
Acidophilus pills are available in-store and have demonstrated efficacy in balancing germs in the mouth by promoting good bacteria. Gentian violet is proven to kill bacteria and fungi.
Home Remedies For Lip Fungus
In addition to prescribed medications, home remedies such as oral rinses can reduce uncomfortable symptoms by alleviating pain, soreness and burning. They can also help prevent the infection from worsening. Repeat up to three times a day until symptoms resolve.
Apple cider vinegar rinse
Apple cider vinegar is an antibacterial and antifungal agent; and while it can’t completely eliminate the bacteria, it has been shown to reduce levels of C. albicans in denture wearers.
Combine equal amounts of water and apple cider vinegar; gargle and swish this mixture for about 15 seconds at a time.
Baking soda rinse
Baking soda has been established to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. As such it is an effective solution to kill bacteria and treat lip fungus. It has also been found to restore and balance the oral microflora by increasing saliva to maintain a balanced pH which is vital to a healthy mouth.
Add one-half teaspoon of baking soda to 8 ounces of warm water; gargle and swish the mixture in your mouth for 15 seconds at a time, then spit out and rinse.
Salt has antiseptic, cleansing and healing properties. These qualities work to kill microbial, bacterial and yeast infections, and soothe irritation and pain.
Add one-half teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of warm water; gargle and swish the mixture in your mouth for 15 seconds at a time, then spit out and rinse.
When To See A Doctor
If OTC treatments and home remedies are ineffective or if your symptoms worsen, see your doctor.
If you are immunocompromised or have a medical condition, see your care provider immediately at the first sign of symptoms. They will assess your situation and prescribe the correct treatment.
Lip fungus is an infection caused by an overgrowth of yeast naturally found in the mouth. Symptoms range from mild to severe and include creamy white lesions on the tongue and inner cheeks, inflammation and foul breath. Accompanying sensations include burning, itching, soreness and pain.
Treatment consists of antifungal medication that is available in different forms and administered in different strengths depending on severity, underlying health conditions and length of time of infection. Acidophilus pills and gentian violet are proven natural solutions to kill bacteria and fungi.
Lip fungus should be diagnosed and treated at the first signs to prevent spreading of the infection and to avoid escalating symptoms. It is also important to identify the underlying cause to avoid reinfection from occurring.
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