Thrush is a very common condition, that affects approximately 75% of all women at some point in their lives. This incredibly common yeast infection is not gender-specific and can affect both men and women. If you think you may have thrush and have never had it before, but want to be sure, you will find out all the information you need right here. In this article we will discuss the facts about thrush, by looking at how do you get thrush, thrush causes, thrush symptoms what you can do to prevent it and what you can do to treat it.
Thrush, also known as candida, thrush infection or vaginal candidasis, is an incredibly common infection caused by the candida albicans yeast fungus. Although it is not a sexually transmitted infection, thrush can often be triggered and even passed from one person to another by sex.
It develops mainly in the genital area, and while it is commonly a cause of unusual discharge from the vagina, it can also occur around the vulva, vagina and even penis. So thrush in men, although rarer, is still possible. Other forms of thrush such as oral thrush in men are also common.
Candida is the fungus that is one of the main thrush causes. Normally, this is very harmless. Thrush tends to develop and thrive in areas where there is a lot of warm moisture (which is why thrush in mouth is possible) and the balance of bacterial levels changes.
For instance, thrush infection is more likely to develop if:
- You have damaged or irritated skin
- You are pregnant
- You often wear synthetic clothes, such as underwear made from nylon; or tight fitting clothes like skinny jeans and leggings
- You have been prescribed antibiotics
- You have HIV, uncontrolled diabetes or another illness or condition that affects the immune system
- You use products such as perfumed shower gel or bubble bath and vaginal deodorant that can irritate your vagina
- You are menopausal or have experienced it
The thing to remember with thrust is that it does not always have visible symptoms or signs. However, some of the symptoms and signs that could indicate you have this yeast infection include:
Thrush in women
- Fissures (similar to paper cuts), redness and soreness or itching around the vaginal area, the labia (lips of your vagina), vulva (opening of your urethra and vagina) or anus.
- White discharge that you don't normally have from your vagina that has a similar look and consistency to cottage cheese. Often this has a strong yeast smell.
- Pain during sexual intercourse or when you pass urine.
Thrush in men
- Fissures (similar to paper-cuts). redness and soreness, burning sensation or itchiness either underneath the foreskin or penis' tip
- A white discharge in or around your penis, similar in consistency and colour to cottage cheese
- A thicker or even thinner discharge, similar again to cottage cheese underneath your foreskin that often has a strong smell of yeast
- Trouble pulling back your foreskin
Skin in other parts of the body can be affected by thrush symptoms, like the spaces between your fingers, your groin, armpits and even mouth. Thrush in mouth or oral thrush and other forms usually causes the development of painful, itchy and red rashes that has yellow or white discharge. If your skin is darker in tone, these rashes may not be as easy to spot.
It is crucial that you speak to a pharmacist, nurse or doctor as soon as possible, if you think you have thrush. As noted earlier, it is not an STI, but it's important to seek medical advice if you think you've contracted an STI.
Thrush is not always the easiest condition to test for. However, if you want to be tested for thrust, you need to see either a nurse or a doctor who may do one or all of the following:
- Inspect your genital area, looking for signs in your penis or vagina
- Take a sample using a swab from in and around your vagina
- Take a sample using a swab from in and around your penis and genitals, inducing underneath your foreskin, particularly if it is suspected that you have fungal infection penis
Swabs are very similar in appearance to cotton ear bud, but are much more rounded, softer and smaller. Samples are taken simply by wiping the swab over the areas that may be affected. This process takes just a couple of seconds, although you may feel minor discomfort for a few moments, it is normally painless.
While it is possible in some scenarios to get test results immediately, you may need to wait for at least a fortnight for your results.
It is common for signs of thrush to be discovered during smear tests, but you only require treatment if there is problem of itchiness, soreness of discharge. Blood tests, on the other hand, do not detect for thrush.
If you'd rather avoid visiting the doctor or nurse, you can buy thrush tests that you can use at home. However, these tests have varying degrees of accuracy. If you do decide to buy a thrush testing kit for home use, make sure you get advice from either a pharmacist, your GP or another medical professional.
Thrush tests vary in accuracy depending on the type of test and sample collected. Microscopy thrush tests, where the collected sample is analysed under a microscope, are usually very accurate when the sample is taken from the vulva or vaginal area. They are less effective when taken from individuals who are thought to have fungal infection penis, which is why most medical professionals will form their diagnosis simply assessing male genital area.
You should try to arrange for a suitable test to be carried out when you discover noticeable symptoms and signs of thrush. There are various options when it comes to where you can get these tests, so you can opt for the one most comfortable with, including:
- Your GP
- Sexual health clinic
- A GUM or genitourinary medicine clinic
- Some young people's and contraception clinics
Often individuals think they have thrush when they have a different vaginal infection known as BV (Bacterial Vaginosis). It is important to note that these are two very different infections that have very different symptoms. As the treatment for thrush and BV are different, it's crucial to know which infection you are suffering from.
If you are having difficulty determining whether you have BV or thrush, we can help you diagnose which it is in around 2 to 5 days. We can provide you with swab self-collection tests that will help you identify quickly and accurately whether you have BV or thrush, without you needing to even leave the house.
Below we have gathered together a collection of pictures of thrush to help you understand if you have it or not.
Treatment for thrush is only required if you have symptoms and signs of the condition and is relatively simple to administer. You could be given either:
- Anti-fungal for your genital area
- Vaginal pessaries (tablets similar to suppositories that are inserted inside your vagina)
- A combination of the above
The nurse or doctor you see will give you directions on using the thrust treatment.
It is also possible to buy over-the-counter anti-fungal treatment from your local chemist. These remedies are practical if you think or know you are suffering from thrush and want to deal with it without assistance. If you have any questions or queries, your pharmacist will be able to answer these and give you clear instructions about using the treatment.
It is crucial that you follow the directions outlined for taking or using the treatment and finish a thrush treatment even when the signs and symptoms have started to dissipate earlier than expected.
In cases of recurring thrush, that is, when you get thrush more than twice in a 6 month period; you may have to use treatment over a longer period of time, often as much as 6 months.
Be aware that some, though not all, anti-fungal products weaken various forms of contraception such as latex caps, diaphragms and condoms. Polyurethane forms of contraception are unaffected though.
For any advice regarding contraception use while treating thrush, as your pharmacist, nurse or doctor.
You also need to tell your pharmacist, nurse or doctor if you know you are pregnant, suspect you might be or are currently nursing your baby. Although thrush is not dangerous in any of these scenarios, it may determine which treatment is best for you.
Although there are instances when some thrush treatments are less effective than others; pills, pessaries and anti-fungal creams (also known as thrush creams) are generally very effective when they are used correctly. You should notice that symptoms disappear after just a few days of use.
However, the first type of treatment you are given or try does not work, your pharmacist, nurse or doctor may be able to recommend a different test or alternative treatment combination.
You can arrange to see your nurse or doctor if you did not use the type of thrush treatment correctly, the symptoms and signs have not disappeared or if you feel you have developed thrush again.
Although some people suffer from thrush once or twice, there are other people who suffer from it regularly. As noted earlier, it is referred to as recurrent thrush if you get it more than 4 times a year. In the event you do develop recurrent thrush, you need to avoid treating yourself and seek out professional medical advice.
Your nurse or doctor will help you by:
- Checking that there aren't any underlying problems (diagnosed or undiagnosed) that could be causing your thrush
- Advise you to use an anti-fungal treatment (such as one of the more effective thrush creams) regularly
- Check your thrush is not the result of another kind of yeast
- Advise you to use an emollient or soap substitute instead of your regular soap
- Help you determine potential thrush triggers
There are a number of changes you can make to your lifestyle if you are suffering from recurrent thrush, that could help control or even eliminate the problem. Although the triggers that cause vaginal and other thrush can be different from person to person, you can often notice a pattern and can control thrush by following the tips listed below.
- Stop using deodorants and soap on or around your genitals; while also avoiding the use of bubble bath, genital sprays and anything else that may irritate the area such as antiseptics and disinfectants
- Stop wearing synthetic, restrictive or tight clothes, like tight trousers and jeans, Lycra shorts, leggings, nylon underwear and tights
- Make sure you lubricate your vagina thoroughly before and during sexual intercourse
- Wipe and wash your genitals area from the front to back
- Strengthen your immune system by avoiding stress and leading a healthy lifestyle
- Stop eating foods high in sugar
- Speak to your doctor about thrush treatments, if you are currently on any antibiotics
- Change your sanitary pads, towels or tampons regularly
- Always change your underwear after workouts and swimming
- Stop having extremely hot baths
- Probiotics have been proven to contribute to balanced levels of good bacteria, which can stop BV and recurrent thrush
Last updated September 12, 2018