Thrush

Thrush is a very common vaginal infection. The symptoms of thrush can be uncomfortable but it is usually easily treated. If you think you may have thrush it is important to see your doctor to get checked and make sure you get the right treatment.

What is thrush?

Thrush is a very common vaginal infection which affects about 75% of women at some point in their lives.

What causes thrush?

Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of yeasts within the vagina. Yeasts often live in small numbers in the vagina without any problem. But if they start to overgrow they can cause symptoms of thrush.

Thrush can happen for no obvious reason. We do know there are certain things that make it more likely:

  • Taking certain antibiotics
  • Having sweaty or moist skin (e.g. after gym or exercise)
  • Lots of friction (e.g. after sex)
  • Being pregnant
  • Having diabetes
  • Having other skin condition in the area such as eczema or psoriasis.
What are the symptoms of thrush?

Typical symptoms of thrush usually include:

  • Vaginal itching or discomfort
  • Thick, white, ‘cottage cheese’ like discharge
  • Burning and pain when urinating or having sex
  • Swelling and redness around the vagina or vulva
Is thrush sexually transmitted?

Thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI).  It is caused by an overgrowth of yeast within the vagina. However yeasts can be exchanged between partners during sex and may cause symptoms in both men and women.

How do I get tested for thrush?

If you think you may have thrush, see your doctor.  Your doctor may examine your genital area and take a vaginal swab for testing.

How is thrush treated?

Thrush is easily treated with anti-fungal creams, pessaries (tablets which are inserted into the vagina with a special applicator) or an oral tablet. These are available from the chemist without a script.

Creams and pessaries – The treatments take from one to seven days.  Sometimes a second course of treatment is needed.

Oral tablets – There is also an oral tablet called fluconazole.  It is more expensive and not recommended for pregnant women.

If you are taking other medications check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking it.

Fluconazole is safe to take while you on the pill.

Can I still have sex?

You can still have sex but it may be uncomfortable. You may feel a burning sensation during or after sex.  Use plenty of lubricant during sex.

Thrush treatments can weaken condoms. If you are using condoms don’t put the treatment on until after you have sex.

Should my partner be treated for thrush?

Thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection. If you have sex with a male partner when you have thrush they may experiences some redness and irritation of the penis.

If this occurs he may benefit from using an antifungal cream  to relieve the symptoms.

What happens if thrush is not treated?

The symptoms of thrush can be very uncomfortable but it does not cause long term damage.

How do I talk to my doctor about thrush?

Use this factsheet to help discuss your symptoms with your doctor [link thrush factsheet].

You can also use the iSPYSTI symptom checker. This may help diagnose your symptoms. It will also give you a referral letter to take to your doctor with the tests you might need.

Read more about seeking treatment.

How do I stop thrush coming back?

Thrush is considered recurrent when you have four or more episodes in 12 months. About 5% of women experience recurrent thrush.

See your doctor if you are experiencing repeated episodes of thrush. They will need to check that it’s not another type of infection or caused by another condition.

Your doctor may recommend a course of long term antifungal treatment to help suppress the overgrowth of yeasts.

Normally you need to take the medication for at least six months after which you should get thrush less often.

The best way to help prevent thrush coming back is to practice good basic skin care.

While many women try different things to try and stop thrush coming back (e.g. changing their diet, eating yoghurt regularly) there is not enough evidence to show these things help prevent thrush.

There are some simple things you can do to lower your risk of infection.

Amanda, age 26
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“I occasionally would have like really, kind of like sore, itchy, kind of like, ah, just the outside of my vagina would be really itchy and sore.”

If this sounds like you, you are not alone.  Talk to your doctor about your symptoms today.

Use our symptom checker: