What is thrush?
Thrush is a vaginal yeast infection which
affects around 75% of women at some point during their lives. It is caused by a
fungus called Candida albicans and can also be known as candida infection, or
Candida albicans is a naturally occurring
fungus which is usually found in the moist parts of the body such as the
vagina. The body is usually able to keep the growth of yeast under control, but
in thrush, the yeast takes over, resulting in an infection.
What are the symptoms of thrush?
If you have thrush, you may experience one
or more of the following symptoms:
- A thick, white, cheese-like vaginal
- Burning or itching around the vagina.
- Redness, soreness and swelling of the vulva
(the female external genitalia).
- Burning sensation when urinating.
- Pain or discomfort during sexual
What causes thrush?
There are a number of factors which may make
a woman more susceptible to developing thrush:
- Taking antibiotics: The growth of yeast in
the vagina is kept under control by certain 'friendly' bacteria. Antibiotics
kill these bacteria, allowing the yeast to take over.
- Changes in female sex hormone levels (due
to pregnancy, taking the contraceptive pill, or before periods): this can alter
the pH balance in the vagina making it more alkaline. Yeast thrives in an
- Diabetes: This raises the sugar content in
your blood and urine, which encourages the growth of yeast.
- Stress: Women who are under stress from a
poor diet, an illness or lack of sleep are more susceptible.
- A weak immune system: If your immune system
has been weakened by something like chemotherapy, you may be more susceptible
to vaginal yeast infections.
How is thrush treated?
If properly treated, the majority of
vaginal yeast infections are gone within two weeks. Sometimes it only takes a
few days. If left untreated however, these infections can persist for years.
Treatment is usually with antifungal
medication. Generally you will be given a combination of a cream that is
administered directly to the outside of the vagina, which helps relive the
itching and soreness, and either a pessary (tablet inserted into the vagina) or
tablets taken by mouth, which will treat the internal infection. These
medicines are available from a pharmacy, without a doctor’s prescription. However,
you should see your doctor if you are at all unsure if the problem is thrush,
or if the problem is recurring.
The following measures may also help:
- Bathing in warm, salted water is very
soothing. You should avoid all chemicals, such as bubble bath and perfumed soap
during an infection.
- Avoid tights or tight-fitting clothing such
as Lycra leggings, if possible.
- If you are sexually active, your doctor may
recommend simultaneous treatment of your sexual partner(s) if they have
symptoms, to prevent re-infection.
How can I help prevent thrush?
There are a number of things that you can
do to help prevent vaginal yeast infections:
- Keep the external genital area clean and
dry. After washing, pat the area dry. If you have been swimming, change quickly
into your dry clothes. Try not to spend prolonged periods of time in a wet
- Wear loose cotton underwear. If possible,
do not wear underwear (pants) in bed in order to give your genital area a
breather. Avoid wearing tights if you are prone to recurrent infections.
- Avoid irritating soaps, bubble baths and
- Change tampons and sanitary towels
- Wipe front to back after urinating. This
prevents yeast that may be in your anus from getting into your vagina. If
wearing sanitary pads, avoid the perfumed ones as the perfume may cause
irritation, which may trigger a yeast infection.
- Avoid antibiotics if possible – and only
take antibiotics that have been prescribed to you by your doctor.
- If you are prone to yeast infections,
inform your doctor so that she/he can consider giving preventive treatment if
you need to take antibiotics.
Can thrush recur?
Unfortunately yes. Many women experience
more than one vaginal yeast infection in their life.
A very small proportion of women with
vaginal yeast infections develop a condition called recurrent vulvovaginal
candidiasis (RVVC). This is when there are four or more symptomatic vaginal
yeast infections in a one-year period.
If your vaginal yeast infection keeps
recurring, visit your doctor.
Reviewed: November 8, 2006
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Last Reviewed: 8th November 2006
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