Thrush is a yeast infection caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. Many people have Candida in different areas of the body including the mouth, vagina and skin, but in low concentrations it is usually harmless. When the amount of the fungus gets above a certain level, this is when problems can start as the natural balance is disturbed. Vaginal thrush is the most common form and around three-quarters of women will have a bout of thrush at some point in their lives, and up to half of these will have thrush more than once. Women in their twenties and thirties are most commonly affected, and it is less common in girls who haven’t started their periods and women who have been through the menopause. Women are particularly prone to thrush if they are pregnant, taking antibiotics or have uncontrolled diabetes. All of these factors unsettle the natural balance of Candida albicans, and cause it to thrive and thus produce the symptoms of thrush.
Vaginal thrush can cause a creamy, white discharge that can also be quite thick. Other symptoms include itchiness, redness, discomfort or pain around the outside of the vagina and these symptoms can also lead to discomfort whilst having sex or passing urine. In some cases the symptoms can be quite minor and clear up on their own, but usually the symptoms need some sort of treatment. One point to remember is that thrush does not damage the vagina and does not spread to damage the womb.
Vaginal thrush is not a sexually transmitted disease (STI) and can be treated by products that can be bought from your local pharmacy. A tablet can be taken by mouth or pessaries can be inserted directly into the vagina. Anti-thrush creams are also available which can be applied to the skin around the vagina to ease any itchiness. Treatment works well for most women and the symptoms should clear up within a few days, however, 1 in 20 women may have recurrent thrush (four or more episodes in a year), and in this situation I would advise to go and see the GP if you have already tried over the counter remedies. I would also recommend going to your GP first if you are under 16 or over 60.
Other non-pharmaceutical tips that may help include:
- Avoid tight fitting clothing, especially those made from synthetic material i.e. Nylon
- Avoid washing underwear with biological washing powders or liquids, and avoid using fabric conditioners
- Avoid using perfumed products around the vaginal area, such as soaps and shower gels, as these may cause further irritation
- Using a simple emollient every day as a moisturiser to protect the skin around the vagina
Remember to always seek advice from your local pharmacist or pharmacy team before buying anything over the counter. If you have any other questions then feel free to email me at: a,firstname.lastname@example.org
Adedayo Titiloye MRPharmS