Going to Battle With Thrush
We all know that our inhaled corticosteroid inhalers come with their fair share of potential side effects. While not everyone gets the side effects, some seem to be plagued with them more often than not. One of the most unpleasant side effects of inhaled corticosteroid maintenance inhalers is thrush.
What is oral thrush?
Essentially, it's a yeast/fungus that develops on the mucous membranes in the mouth & throat. It can happen to anyone, but is more commonly found in the elderly, babies and those who are immunocompromised. Certain medications can cause an overgrowth of the candida fungus, thus causing a thrush infection.
Symptoms of thrush include a thick white film covering the tongue and possibly throat and on occasion the gums. You might have a sore throat as well. If the infection is pretty bad, and the white spots on the tongue are scraped, they might bleed. In minor cases, the tongue might not be very white at all, and just sore and red.
How is oral thrush prevented?
There are several steps you can take to help prevent thrush from happening. First, be sure to rinse your mouth out (and spit it out!) every time you take your steroid inhalers. Really be diligent about doing this. Make it a habit. You can even take it a step further and brush your teeth afterward to be extra cautious especially if you find that you are prone to thrush infections as some are more than others.
Another simple tip is to use a spacer with your metered-dose inhalers. (Spacers aren’t meant to be used with the dry powder inhalers or the Respimat versions of inhalers.) A spacer prevents the medication from hitting the back of your throat and holds it in the chamber long enough for you to inhale it down into your lungs. This makes a huge difference not only in thrush prevention but also in your lungs getting more of the medication and you getting the maximum benefit. Spacers are inexpensive and some times your doctor's office might be able to give you one or a prescription for one to pick up at your local pharmacy or you can purchase one online.
What is the treatment for oral thrush?
Give your doctor a call. He or she will prescribe an antifungal medication (generally it’s a prescription mouthwash) that you will use for a period of time that they will decide on depending on the severity of your case. Rinsing your mouth with saltwater may feel soothing especially if it’s really sore. You will also want to make sure to clean your mouthpieces of your inhalers really well while recovering from thrush to prevent any reinfections from occurring. Also be sure to replace your toothbrush.
While thrush can be unpleasant, there are steps you can take to prevent it and also steps you can take to get rid of it generally pretty easily with a trip to the doctor.
How has your experience been navigating the healthcare system as someone with COPD?