Back
healthwords.aihealthwords.ai
Cart
Search
condition icon
condition

Vaginal thrush

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 4 minutes read
EmailFacebookPinterestTwitter

Vaginal thrush is a common condition caused by a yeast infection in the vagina and surrounding area. This infection is usually Candida albicans, and is also known as candida or vulvovaginal candidiasis.

Candida lives harmlessly on the skin, in the mouth, gut and vagina and is normally kept under control but if conditions change then the yeast increases rapidly, causing symptoms of discharge and irritation.

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.

Who gets thrush?

Most women get thrush at some point in their life, but it is most common in women in their thirties and forties, and in those who are pregnant. It is not clear why some women are more prone to thrush than others. Diabetes and medical conditions that cause problems with the body's immune system increase the likelihood of it occurring. Other potential triggers include wearing tight clothing that prevents natural ventilation, taking antibiotics (about 1 in 4 women will have thrush because of this), using products that irritate the vagina, such as vaginal douches or feminine hygiene products, and having chemotherapy. There is little evidence that using sanitary towels or tampons is a risk factor for developing thrush.

Although not usually thought of as a sexually transmitted disease, thrush can sometimes be passed on to your partner after vaginal, oral or anal sex, during foreplay or by sharing sex toys.

Doctor’s advice

What are the symptoms?

Some women with thrush will not have any signs or symptoms, and be completely unaware they have thrush. It may only be picked up by chance when you go for a cervical smear test. Typical symptoms include 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 the conditions known as balanitis, and may cause some pain on passing urine.

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).

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

Candidal infections such as thrush or candidal balanitis can easily be treated by using an antifungal cream or vaginal preparation. Available antifungals include clotrimazole and miconazole.

Follow the package directions carefully.

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.

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.

Was this helpful?

Was this helpful?

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
EmailFacebookPinterestTwitter
App Store
Google Play
Piff tick
Version 2.25.0
© 2024 Healthwords Ltd. All Rights Reserved