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Candidal Skin Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes 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 pus-filled bumps around the edge. Soreness rather than itchiness distinguishes it from other causes of rash.

This is more common in women than men and affects the labia (the outer and inner lips to the vagina), but it 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. Most people know it as thrush, but it's medically termed candidiasis or candidal vulvovaginitis if it affects the vagina.

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

Doctor’s advice

Is candida contagious?

Candida is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD), 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. Creams and vaginal inserts are available 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 baths, or any other potential irritants on the genital area – only use water to wash, and only on the outside (no douching)

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

Candidal fungal infections such as thrush or candidal balanitis can easily be treated by using an antifungal cream such as those containing clotrimazole or miconazole.

The creams should usually be applied twice daily for 7 to 14 days or up to 3 days after the rash has cleared. Vaginal products also come as a vaginal insert in one-, three-, or seven-day treatment packs, or as combination packs.

Am I fit for work?

You are fit for work if you have thrush or candidal balanitis.

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.

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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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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