Treatments

Thrush

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Overview

What is thrush?

Thrush mainly refers to vaginal thrush, which is a common yeast infection that will affect most women, especially in their 20s or 30s. Thrush is unlikely in women that have gone through menopause or that have not started their periods yet. Symptoms of vaginal thrush include swelling and itching of the vulva and a white cottage cheese-like discharge. Thrush is easily treatable with prescription and non-prescription medication.

Penile thrush (thrush on the penis) is caused by the same fungus as female thrush, however, thrush is much less common in men than women. Penile thrush can occur from taking antibiotics, not drying your penis properly, using perfumed soaps/shower gels and/or having a weakened immune system.


Diagnosis of thrush

Your first experience of thrush should be diagnosed by your doctor. Subsequent cases can then be self-diagnosed if the symptoms are the same as your first time. If you have self-diagnosed thrush and the treatment did not work, you should visit your GP. If the doctor cannot visually diagnose you, they may conduct a vaginal/penile swab, blood test and/or pH level test.


Prevention of thrush

To reduce the risk of developing thrush, you should:

  • Wash your genitals using water, avoid perfumed soaps/shower gels.
  • Use emollient moisturiser as a soap substitute.
  • Avoid tight-fitting underwear.
  • Antibiotics can make you more prone to developing thrush, if you are due to start antibiotic treatment, it may be worth purchasing thrush treatment.
  • Avoid any known irritants/triggers.

Causes

Thrush is caused by a fungus called Candida Albicans. Usually bacteria in the vagina is ‘friendly’ and it keeps the fungus at bay, however, if the natural balance within the vagina is disturbed, the fungus can multiply and cause thrush, which is a harmless infection but is often irritating and uncomfortable. Penile thrush is caused the same way. There is an increased risk of developing thrush if you:

• Have a weakened immune system - it cannot control the spread of the fungi.

• Have diabetes - due to uncontrolled glucose levels.

• Are pregnant - due to hormone changes.

• Take antibiotics - as they kill the ‘friendly’ bacteria.

Treatments

Thrush is a yeast infection, and therefore it is treated with antifungal medication. Antifungal medications can be prescribed or purchased over the counter.

Symptoms

Symptoms of vaginal thrush include:

  • A sore and itchy vagina
  • Vaginal cottage cheese-like, odourless discharge
  • Pain during sex
  • Stinging sensation whilst urinating
  • Vaginal entrance may be red and swollen with the surrounding skin becoming cracked

Symptoms of penile thrush include:

  • Red, inflamed and swollen skin around the head of the penis
  • A sore and itchy head of the penis
  • Thick, lumpy discharge under the foreskin
  • An unpleasant odour
  • Difficulty pulling back the foreskin
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain when urinating

FAQ

  • Is thrush caused by being unhygienic?

    No. Thrush is caused by a disturbance in the microorganisms that are found in the vagina/penis. However, it is important to regularly wash your genitals with unperfumed products to prevent thrush.

  • Will thrush clear up on its own?

    Yes, thrush can clear up on its own. However, this may take a lot longer than using treatment. With treatment, thrush will take 5 to 7 days to clear.

  • Can I pass thrush on to sexual partners?

    Yes, if you practice unprotected sex it is common to pass on thrush. Vaginal or penile thrush can also cause oral thrush if you engage in oral sex. Unprotected sex whilst having thrush can lead to a re-infection cycle where you infect your parter who can then reinfect you if you both are not treated.

  • My thrush is recurring, how do I stop getting it?

    There are a number of measures you can take, such as:

    • Wash your genitals using water, avoid perfumed soaps/shower gels.
    • Use emollient moisturiser as a soap substitute.
    • Avoid tight-fitting underwear.
    • Antibiotics can make you more prone to developing thrush, if you are due to start antibiotic treatment, it may be worth purchasing thrush treatment.
    • Avoid any known irritants/triggers.

  • Can you treat thrush with natural yogurt?

    No. There is no scientific evidence that proves that natural yogurt will treat thrush. You should seek medical antifungal treatment.

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