Thrush affects approximately 75% of women at some point in their life. However, babies, children and men can develop the condition too. There are multiple causes of thrush, and although an infection can be triggered by sex, it is not classed as a sexually transmitted infection.
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Around 3 in 4 women may experience a bout of vaginal thrush at some point in their lives and it is usually nothing to worry about in the vast majority of cases. Classed as a yeast infection, thrush is caused by an increase in a naturally occurring fungus present in the vagina and gut called Candida albicans.
This fungus is always present and usually causes no harm whatsoever, however the vagina is generally acidic and when this level decreases and the good bacteria fail, this imbalance allows the fungus to multiply causing an increased in the bad bacteria which leads to thrush and the uncomfortable symptoms associated with it.
Whilst it is mainly associated with women, men are also susceptible to male thrush It has also been known to be present in children and babies too which usually comes in the form of oral thrush or nappy rash.
Vaginal thrush is a very common form of this condition, sometimes referred to as female candidiasis. It's mostly harmless, though can be recurrent. Some common symptoms include:
Lots of women can have thrush but not be aware of it, and sometimes experience no symptoms at all. In many cases, thrush is only diagnosed after a routine smear test.
Whilst it is far more common in women, men can also develop thrush. There are three common types of thrush to affect men:
Thrush treatments such as fluconazole and clotrimazole can also be used by men as well as women with popular causes being personal hygiene, diabetes or simply too much Candida albicans fungus when your immune system is not 100%.
According to the NHS, approximately 1 in 7 babies will get oral thrush at around 1 month old. Due to the same yeast fungus as vaginal thrush (Candida albicans), whilst this is healthy in adults, a newborn's immune system is not strong enough to cope with the fungus. Symptoms include:
This coating is thick and does not rub away easily, differentiating it from the usual milk coating, and can require oral thrush treatment specifically designed for babies. It is possible to transfer the infection onto you when breastfeeding, known as nipple thrush, which can be treated with antifungal cream such as Daktarin oral gel however to contact your GP before use.
Thrush in the mouth can affect both men and women but it is also surprisingly common in newborn babies. Oral thrush in adults can be unpleasant, however it is just as treatable as vaginal thrush.
The main symptom of oral thrush is white spots around and in the mouth that become red and sore when removed.
The causes of oral thrush are completely different to vaginal thrush. For more details on oral thrush and oral thrush treatment, please visit the NHS. It's worth noting that oral and vaginal thrush is contagious, so sexual activity and other contact should be avoided until it is completely gone.
The triggers and causes of thrush can differ depending on the type, although it will always involve an imbalance in bacteria and the candida albicans fungus.
Candida can be present in the vagina without presenting any symptoms of irritation. This is because the good bacteria - known as lactobacilli - can manage the fungus so it does not cause any problems. It is when the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina alters and the Candida is allowed to grow, that infection occurs.
In terms of personal triggers, there are times and situations that make women more prone to vaginal thrush.
It is therefore worth taking into account the exact triggers of vaginal thrush.
Underwear or clothing of a certain synthetic material can cause thrush if your skin is particularly sensitive and some women find changing to cotton can make a huge difference. Likewise with toiletries; sometimes altering the skin care products, shower gel, deodorant and other perfumed products used can be the catalyst in reducing the chance of getting thrush.
Whilst thrush is not classed as a seuxally transmitted infection, it can still be passed on from sex. It is advised therefore, to avoid sex until the infection is completely cleared. If you have symptoms associated with thrush (see below) and are worried it could be an STI instead, visit your GP or sexual health clinic for further information and testing. Alternatively, if you wish to avoid a face-to-face discussion, or simply don't have time, we offer a self-testing kit.
The causes of thrush in men can also be similar to that in women, although it is more likely to be linked to conditions such as diabetes, HIV, chemotherapy and personal hygiene.
It is entirely possible that you could have thrush and not be aware of it, as the infection can be asymptomatic. In this case, the only way to know for sure is to receive a cervical smear test, and for men, usually a swab of the penis or crotch region.
Other symptoms of thrush include:
The most common thrush symptoms are itching and general irritation around the genital region although some people don't experience any unusual discharge at all.
In men, symptoms include:
You don't need to experience all of symptoms to have full-blown thrush.
Thrush treatments can come in the form of tablets, pessaries and creams. These treatments are available as either over-the-counter or prescription medications, depending on the severity of the infection.
Thrush creams are sometimes recommended as treatments to be used alongside pessaries or tablets to alleviate any soreness. Some medications such as Canesten are available over-the-counter in either tablet or pessary form. Another pessary treatment is econazole. Pessaries are fairly popular although they can be inconvenient and messy.
Some people recommend using a "natural" treatment for treating yeast infections in the form of a yoghurt remedy, which involves applying plain live yoghurt to the vulva. There is no evidence, however, to suggest that this method is effective but it can help to soothe irritation.
There are generally two prescription treatments offered and medically proven to help treat thrush successfully in adults. Typically for vaginal thrush, however both can be used by men as well:
Both tablets and creams are known to be equally effective treatment methods. Your decision between the two options will likely depend on whether you would prefer to take a tablet or use the cream. You can use both the cream and pills at the same time.
It is possible to minimise the risk of becoming infected with thrush if you identify with triggers are causing the condition. Avoiding the following could help:
You can also practice the usual personal hygiene techniques such as washing simply and wiping from front to back after going to the toilet.
As mentioned, a diet of processed and sugary foods are the main culprits when it comes to foods that cause thrush, however there are foods that can help prevent thrush if it is a recurrent problem for you:
Basically, all the foods that are good for you!
Below is our infographic on preventing thrush. Simply click to expand the graphic to learn more.
HealthExpress offer treatment in the form of antifungal tablets (Diflucan) and an antifungal cream (Gyno-Daktarin). Both are clinically proven effective.
As the uncomfortable symptoms of bacterial infections such as thrush can escalate quickly, we offer next day delivery if ordered before 4:30pm so you can start your treatment as soon as possible.
Vaginal thrush affects as many 75% of women during their lives, and is the result of an overgrowth of candida in the vaginal environment. It's uncomfortable, but can easily be treated. The thrush treatments we have available are Diflucan and Gyno-Daktarin, which are clinically proven to relieve thrush symptoms and effectively treat the infection. These treatments are approved by UK qualified doctors and can be quickly and discreetly obtained by completing our simple online consultation.
The body is designed to fight off these kinds of infections. However, treatments can help to alleviate symptoms and help speed up recovery times.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may wish to seek treatment to help alleviate the symptoms of your infection. There are a range of treatment options to choose from, including tablets, creams and pessaries.
Yes, this is possible, though it is rare. It is advisable to avoid sex while you have thrush until the infection is completely cleared, as doing so may worsen the infection or cause it to last for longer than it otherwise would have.
Yes, it is possible for men to get thrush. There are three common types of thrush to affect men and they are candida balanitis (an infection that occurs at the head of the penis), oral thrush (an infection that occurs inside the mouth) and a candidal skin infection.
No, thrush is not considered to be harmful to an unborn baby. In fact, thrush can actually happen as a result of pregnancy. If you choose to take a treatment while pregnant, you should use either a pessary or a cream, as oral tablets could potentially be harmful. Speak to your doctor if you are considering a thrush treatment while pregnant.
You should try to wear cotton underwear and avoid using cleansing products which have been perfumed. Always make sure that you wipe from front to back after using the toilet.