What is it?
Thrush is a common yeast infection that affects men and women. It's usually harmless but it can be uncomfortable and keep coming back. It is not classed as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) but it can be triggered by sex and sometimes passed on through sex.
What are the symptoms?
There may be one or more symptoms including:
- Itching soreness and redness around the vagina, vulva or anus
- A thick, white discharge from the vagina that looks like cottage cheese
- Pain when you have sex
- Pain when you pass urine (peeing)
- Irritation, burning or itching under the foreskin or on the tip of the penis
- A redness, or red patches, under the foreskin or on the tip of the penis
- A thick, cheesy discharge under the foreskin
- Difficulty in pulling back the foreskin
- Men who have these symptoms should always be checked for diabetes
What is it caused by?
It is caused by a yeast called candida that normally lives harmlessly on the skin or in the mouth, gut and vagina, without causing any problems. However, it can multiply and cause symptoms.
Thrush tends to grow in warm, moist conditions and develops if the balance of bacteria changes. This can happen if:-
- your skin is irritated or damaged
- you're taking antibiotics
- you have poorly controlled diabetes
- you have a weakened immune system (for example, because of HIV or chemotherapy)
- you have been through the menopause
- you're pregnant
HRT and possibly the combined oral contraceptive pill may also increase the risk of developing thrush.
In many cases, thrush develops without any of these triggers.
How do you get tested for thrush?
By taking a swab from the affected area.
How is it treated?
Thrush is treated with antifungal medication which can be in the form of a tablet that you take by mouth, a tablet you insert into your vagina (pessary) or a cream to relieve the irritation.
Thrush should clear up within a week after 1 dose of medicine or using the cream daily.
You do not need to treat partners unless they have symptoms.
Pregnancy and thrush
Oral tablets must NOT be taken in pregnancy as they can be harmful to the developing baby. They should also NOT be taken by women who are breastfeeding.
Pessaries and creams may be used but you should seek advice from your GP or sexual health clinic if you are pregnant and have symptoms of thrush. Longer courses of treatment may be necessary.
Can thrush recur?
Thrush can come back and recurrences usually respond to the same standard treatment.
If you have 4 or more episodes in a year then you may benefit from preventive treatment which is usually taken for 6 months. It is important that you see a doctor to discuss this. Your GP or sexual health clinic can help identify if something is causing your thrush, such as your period or sex and they may also want to test you for diabetes. They’ll recommend how often you should use treatment.
How can I best prevent infection recurring?
Avoiding the following can reduce the chances of thrush recurring:
- wearing tights, nylon underwear or tight trousers or jeans
- using perfumed bubble bath, soap or vaginal deodorants
- using alcohol / baby wipes on your genital skin
- using strong detergents or fabric softeners when washing your underwear or towels
Consider washing with a non perfumed soap free body wash and preferably one described as 'hypo- allergenic'.
For women with recurrent thrush it may also be helpful to avoid vaginal douching or using daily panty liners.
Free condoms are available throughout Dumfries & Galloway by joining the C4U scheme.
Testing and treatment is available from:
If you wish to be seen or are seeking sexual health advice:
Mon - Fri 9.00am - 4.00pm
- General Practitioners
Tel: 0345 702 3687 for other appointments