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Vaginal thrush

Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 25.04.2023 | 2 min read

Candida is a very common yeast causing a thrush infection. This gives rise to itching and soreness on the skin around the genitals, and sometimes pain when passing urine. Warm damp conditions allow the yeast to grow, leading to a distinct bright red rash, often with small red bumps or a red line around the edge. Soreness rather than itchiness distinguishes it from other causes of a rash.

This is more common in women than men, and affects the labia (the outer and inner lips to the vagina), but can spread to the groin, and can cause itching and irritation to the inside of the vagina. You may also experience vaginal discharge, which is typically thick, white, and doesn't have any particular smell.

In men, this can also affect the penis, causing candidal balanitis, and may cause some pain on passing urine.

Doctor’s advice

Is it contagious? What should I do next?

It is not a sexually transmitted infection, although sex can instigate or aggravate it, and partners can also develop symptoms.

You can purchase over-the-counter thrush treatments from your local pharmacy. This can be in the form of a one-off anti-fungal tablet and/or a cream that can clear the infection and relieve the soreness and itchiness.

To help avoid thrush you can:

• avoid wearing tight, restrictive or synthetic clothing

• wear breathable cotton underwear

• make sure your vagina is well-lubricated before and during sexual intercourse

• wash and wipe your genital area from front to back

• avoid using soap, deodorants, genital sprays, bubble bath, or any other potential irritants on the genital area – only use water to wash, and only on the outside (no douching).

Caidr pharmacists' top tips

Candidal infections such as thrush or candidal balanitis can easily be treated by using an antifungal cream. Canesten contains the antifungal clotrimazole, and Daktarin contains miconazole.

The creams should be applied twice a day for 7 - 14 days if using Canesten Thrush 2% cream, or up to 3 days after the rash has cleared.

Am I fit for work?

You are fit for work if you have vaginal thrush.

When should I see my doctor?

For women, see your doctor or sexual health clinic if you are pregnant so they can confirm the diagnosis by examining you and testing the pH or taking swabs, and they can prescribe treatment.

For everyone, see your doctor or sexual health clinic if you have tried over-the-counter measures and the symptoms have not completely cleared up or have come back quickly.

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