Although not strictly a STI, vaginal thrush can be passed on through sex. The thrush is a yeast/fungus called candida, which grows in warm, moist areas, such as the groin and is often known as a yeast infection. Men can also get thrush.
Candida yeast occurs naturally in the vagina, gut and mouth and is kept in check by other bacteria. However, occasionally candida multiplies and causes irritation and this is what is called thrush. There are many causes, such as wearing tight underwear, taking antibiotics or using douches to clean the vagina. However, it is also passed on through vaginal, anal or oral sex, by sharing sex toys and foreplay.
Itching around the vagina, vulva and labia (vaginal lips), which can lead to red, sore, swollen and cracked skin. Thick, smelly discharge and pain while peeing and during sex. Men may also experience irritation around the head of the penis, smelly discharge and have difficulty pulling back the foreskin. Thrush can also be found around the mouth and fingernails.
If you suspect you have vaginal thrush, speak to your pharmacist who may recommend an over-the-counter treatment or to your GUM clinic or GP who may take a swab of the genital area to be sent for examination.
Anti-fungal treatments are used to treat thrush. They come in different forms including cream placed in the vagina with an applicator, pessaries, which are pills inserted into the vagina with an applicator and capsules, which you swallow. Pregnant women must check before using any of these and may be given alternative treatment. Mild thrush may be cleared with over-the-counter products but more serious cases may need a prescription. Some treatments can damage condoms and diaphragms so seek alternative contraception during treatment.
In one in five cases, anti-fungal treatments don't work. It may be that you have a different infection and you must seek medical advice as alternative treatment may be offered. Thrush can recur and you may need maintenance therapy to use whenever you have an outbreak. Dealing with a recurrent thrush can cause depression and anxiety.
Thrush is extremely common, affecting three quarters of women at least once in their lifetime and half of those will have it at least twice. It is most common in the 30s and 40s and pregnant women, and those with HIV, are particularly susceptible.
You can reduce the risk of becoming infected with vaginal thrush and spreading the infection. How? Here are five simple ways to prevent you getting vaginal thrush.
Use a condom - Protecting yourself during all sexual activity (vaginal, anal and oral) can reduce the risk of getting infected with vaginal thrush. Use a male latex condom or a female polyurethane condom during sexual contact.
Be aware - Make sure that you get checked regularly for STIs, especially if you're under the age of 25 as this is the group most at risk. In a few seconds you can order your chlamydia self-collecting test online.
Limit your number of sex partners - Changing sex partners puts you at a high risk of becoming infected with vaginal thrush or any other sexually transmitted infections. If you do change partners, get tested every single time, even if the person you're with assures you they don't have it. It's largely symptomless so they might not even know they're infected.
Talk to your partner - A simple conversation before beginning a sexual relationship can help. Take your time and find out whether he or she is at risk of having vaginal thrush. Talk to your partner about the risk factors, the benefits of regular screening, signs to look out for and the need to use condoms, even when you're not having penetrative sex. Sexually transmitted infections are more common when ignorance is higher so it pays to have some knowledge and share it with others.
Get tested regularly - If you are in stable relationship it is recommended to do a test at least once a year. If you have multiple sexual partners you should do it every three months. Here at raTrust we can offer you various types of STI tests. You will be able to do self-collection test at home at a time and in an environment which is convenient for you.
Last updated April 17, 2018