What is it?
Thrush is a yeast infection. It is common and is not always caught through sexual contact. It affects most women at some point. It may be unpleasant and uncomfortable. It can be passed but can usually be treated with medication available from over the counter or by prescription. For some women it can be difficult to treat and keeps coming back.
What causes vaginal thrush?
Vaginal thrush is caused by yeasts from a group of fungi called Candida.
Candida can be present in the vagina without it causing any problems; thrush may develop if the natural balance of micro-organisms in the vagina is disrupted so Candida multiplies.
Vaginal thrush isn’t classed as an STI, but it can be triggered by sex and can be passed on to sexual partners.
How will I know I have got it?
Symptoms vaginal thrush include:
- soreness and itching around the entrance of the vagina (labia)
- odourless vaginal discharge – either thick and white or thin and watery
- pain during sex
- stinging when peeing
The skin around the vagina can sometimes be swollen, red or cracked. Sometimes there may also be sores on the skin; this is more often a sign of genital herpes.
You can use the NHS Choices vagina problems visual guide to help find out what could be causing your symptoms.
What to do if you have vaginal thrush
If you’ve had thrush before and think you have it again, you can normally treat it with over the counter medicines from a pharmacy.
It’s advisable to get medical advice from your GP or a sexual health clinic if you::
- have thrush for the first time
- are under the age of 16 or over 60
- are pregnant or breastfeeding
- have unusual symptoms, such as coloured or smelly discharge, or sores on the skin around your vagina
- have abnormal vaginal bleeding or pain in your abdomen
- have had two episodes of thrush within the last six months
- have had a reaction to antifungal treatment in the past, or if it was unsuccessful
- or your partner have previously had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and you have placed yourself at risk of reinfection
- have had symptoms that did not improve after 7-14 days of treatment
Your doctor may want to take a swab from your vagina to confirm the diagnosis and/or carry out tests to check for any underlying cause. They can provide advice on the most suitable treatment and give you a prescribe appropriate medication.
Many men experience no signs or symptoms of thrush.
If symptoms that appear include:
- burning, irritation or itching under the foreskin or tip of the penis
- red patches under or redness on the foreskin or on the tip of the penis
- discharge under the foreskin resembling cottage cheese – sometimes with an unpleasant smell
- phimosis -difficulty pulling back the foreskin on the penis