Oral candidiasis differential diagnosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1];Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Ahmed Younes M.B.B.CH [2]


Oropharyngeal candidiasis must be differentiated from its different kinds and from various other diseases that can cause stomatitis or glossitis

Differential diagnosis

Oropharyngeal candidiasis must be differentiated from its different kinds and from various other diseases that can cause stomatitis or glossitis:[1][2]

Oral candidiasis must be differentiated from other diseases causing oral lesions such as leukoplakia and herpes simplex virus infection.

Disease Presentation Risk Factors Diagnosis Affected Organ Systems Important features Picture
Diseases predominantly affecting the oral cavity
Oral Candidiasis
  • Denture users
  • As a side effect of medication, most commonly having taken antibiotics. Inhaled corticosteroids for the treatment of lung conditions (e.g, asthma or COPD) may also result in oral candidiasis which may be reduced by regularly rinsing the mouth with water after taking the medication.
  • Clinical diagnosis
  • Confirmatory tests rarely needed
Localized candidiasis

Invasive candidasis

Tongue infected with oral candidiasis - By James Heilman, MD - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=11717223.jpg
Herpes simplex oral lesions
  • Stress
  • Recent URTI
  • Female sex
  • The symptoms of primary HSV infection generally resolve within two weeks
Oral herpes simplex infection - By James Heilman, MD - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=19051042.jpg
Aphthous ulcers
  • Painful, red spot or bump that develops into an open ulcer
  • Physical examination
  • Diagnosis of exclusion
  • Oral cavity
  • Self-limiting , Pain decreases in 7 to 10 days, with complete healing in 1 to 3 weeks
By Ebarruda - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=7903358
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma - By Luca Pastore, Maria Luisa Fiorella, Raffaele Fiorella, Lorenzo Lo Muzio - http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/showImageLarge.action?uri=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0050212.g001, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15252632
  • Vulvar lesions occur independent of oral lesions
Leukoplakia - By Aitor III - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9873087
Oral melanoma - By Emmanouil K Symvoulakis, Dionysios E Kyrmizakis, Emmanouil I Drivas, Anastassios V Koutsopoulos, Stylianos G Malandrakis, Charalambos E Skoulakis and John G Bizakis - Symvoulakis et al. Head & Face Medicine 2006 2:7 doi:10.1186/1746-160X-2-7 (Open Access), [1], CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9839811
Fordyce spots
Fordyce spots - Por Perene - Obra do próprio, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19772899
Burning mouth syndrome
Torus palatinus
Torus palatinus - By Photo taken by dozenist, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=846591
Diseases involving oral cavity and other organ systems
Behcet's disease
Behcet's disease - By Ahmet Altiner MD, Rajni Mandal MD - http://dermatology.cdlib.org/1611/articles/18_2009-10-20/2.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17863021
Crohn's disease
oral syphilis - By CDC/Susan Lindsley - http://phil.cdc.gov/phil_images/20021114/34/PHIL_2385_lores.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2134349
Coxsackie virus
  • Symptomatic treatment
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease
Chicken pox
Chickenpox - By James Heilman, MD - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52872565
  • Unvaccinated individuals[12][13]
  • Crowded and/or unsanitary conditions
  • Traveling to less developed and developing countries
  • Immunocompromized
  • Winter and spring seasons
  • Born after 1956 and never fully vaccinated
  • Health care workers
Koplick spots (Measles) - By CDC - http://phil.cdc.gov/PHIL_Images/20040908/4f54ee8f0e5f49f58aaa30c1bc6413ba/6111_lores.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=824483


  1. Mandell; Gouglas, Gordon; Bennett, John. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. Harvard Medical School: WILEY MEDICAL. p. 383. ISBN 0-471-87643-7. Unknown parameter |firs1t= ignored (help)
  2. Scully C (1999). "A review of common mucocutaneous disorders affecting the mouth and lips". Ann Acad Med Singapore. 28 (5): 704–7. PMID 10597357.
  3. R. Morgan, J. Tsang, N. Harrington & L. Fook (2001). "Survey of hospital doctors' attitudes and knowledge of oral conditions in older patients". Postgraduate medical journal. 77 (908): 392–394. PMID 11375454. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  4. D. Grady, J. Greene, T. E. Daniels, V. L. Ernster, P. B. Robertson, W. Hauck, D. Greenspan, J. Greenspan & S. Jr Silverman (1990). "Oral mucosal lesions found in smokeless tobacco users". Journal of the American Dental Association (1939). 121 (1): 117–123. PMID 2370378. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  5. P. DeMatos, D. S. Tyler & H. F. Seigler (1998). "Malignant melanoma of the mucous membranes: a review of 119 cases". Annals of surgical oncology. 5 (8): 733–742. PMID 9869521. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  6. Barry Ladizinski & Kachiu C. Lee (2014). "A nodular protuberance on the hard palate". JAMA. 311 (15): 1558–1559. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.271. PMID 24737369. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  7. Magliocca KR, Fitzpatrick SG (2017) Autoimmune Disease Manifestations in the Oral Cavity. Surg Pathol Clin 10 (1):57-88. DOI:10.1016/j.path.2016.11.001 PMID: 28153136
  8. Dalghous AM, Freysdottir J, Fortune F (2006). "Expression of cytokines, chemokines, and chemokine receptors in oral ulcers of patients with Behcet's disease (BD) and recurrent aphthous stomatitis is Th1-associated, although Th2-association is also observed in patients with BD". Scand J Rheumatol. 35 (6): 472–5. PMID 17343257.
  9. Ann M. Gillenwater, Nadarajah Vigneswaran, Hanadi Fatani, Pierre Saintigny & Adel K. El-Naggar (2013). "Proliferative verrucous leukoplakia (PVL): a review of an elusive pathologic entity!". Advances in anatomic pathology. 20 (6): 416–423. doi:10.1097/PAP.0b013e3182a92df1. PMID 24113312. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  10. Andrès E, Zimmer J, Affenberger S, Federici L, Alt M, Maloisel F. (2006). "Idiosyncratic drug-induced agranulocytosis: Update of an old disorder". Eur J Intern Med. 17 (8): 529–35. Text "pmid 17142169" ignored (help)
  11. title="By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons" href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_manual_of_syphilis_and_the_venereal_diseases%2C_(1900)_(14595882378).jpg"
  12. Feikin DR, Lezotte DC, Hamman RF, Salmon DA, Chen RT, Hoffman RE (2000). "Individual and community risks of measles and pertussis associated with personal exemptions to immunization". JAMA. 284 (24): 3145–50. PMID 11135778.
  13. Ratnam S, West R, Gadag V, Williams B, Oates E (1996). "Immunity against measles in school-aged children: implications for measles revaccination strategies". Can J Public Health. 87 (6): 407–10. PMID 9009400.

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