Vaginal thrush is caused by a yeast infection. This yeast normally lives harmlessly on your skin, or in your vagina, without causing any problems. The levels of yeast in your vagina are usually kept to a safe level by ‘good’ bacteria that live in your vagina too. Sometimes, though, the yeast can multiply, causing symptoms of thrush.
You can pass on thrush by sexual intercourse, but you don’t need to have sex to get it. That means it is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Basically, thrush loves anywhere that is warm and moist, which is why thrush infections are so common in women’s vaginas and under men’s foreskins. Yeast infections also cause athlete’s foot.
You are more likely to get thrush if you:
- are pregnant
- have been taking certain antibiotic tablets
- have sex with someone who has thrush
- wear tight, synthetic clothes (like tight jeans, leggings, tights or synthetic underpants)
- use a lot of perfumed bubble bath, vaginal deodorant or soap around your vagina, where it can cause irritation.
Symptoms of thrush include:
- A creamy vaginal discharge
- Vaginal itching
- Soreness and redness around your vagina or vulva
- Pain when you make love
- Pain when you pass water.
In men, thrush is less common, but it can cause
- redness, or red patches, on the skin of your penis
- a thick discharge, like cottage cheese, from under your foreskin
- soreness, itching or burning under your foreskin.
Contact your doctor if:
- Your symptoms do not go away with treatment. If this happens, you may have another infection, which could be more serious
- You also have pain in your lower tummy
- You get discharge, but you are unwell and feverish with it
- You get a greenish, bloodstained or offensive smelling discharge
How to help yourself:
- If you think you have symptoms of thrush (especially if you have had it before, and you get the same symptoms again), you can buy treatment for it from your pharmacist. The treatments for thrush include:
- a pessary (which you put into your vagina like a tampon)
- cream (useful for men and if you have symptoms of thrush around the outside of your vagina or your back passage)
- a tablet to take by mouth.
If you get recurrent attacks of thrush, you can reduce your chance of getting another one by:
- avoiding tight, or synthetic, clothes
- avoid using soap or bubble bath
- avoid using vaginal deodorants
- using condoms when you have sex
- washing and drying under your foreskin regularly, if you are a man.
With thanks to 'My Weekly' magazine where this article was originally published.