Thrush is a common yeast infection usually caused by the Candida Albicans fungus.
Thrush isn't an STI and it is unusual for it to be passed on during sex.
Vaginal Thrush is very common. Around three-quarters of women will have Thrush at some point in their lives. It is harmless, but it can be uncomfortable.
What causes it?
Many people have a small amount of the Candida Albicans fungus in their bodies. However, it does not usually cause problems because it is kept under control by the body’s immune system.
In most people, Thrush develops without any specific trigger, but you may be more likely to develop Thrush if you:
- Have uncontrolled diabetes
- Have recently taken antibiotics (which weaken the good bacteria that normally fight the fungus)
- Use perfumed soaps and shower gels to wash your genitals
- Use scented sanitary towels or tampons
- Are pregnant (and therefore your hormone levels are changing)
- Have a weakened immune system due to HIV or other conditions.
Symptoms can include:
- Itching and soreness around the entrance of the vagina
- Pain during sex in the vagina
- A stinging sensation when you urinate
- Vaginal discharge, although this isn't always present; the discharge is usually thick and white.
You may also have more severe symptoms:
- A red and swollen vagina and vulva
- Cracked skin around the entrance of your vagina
- Sores in the surrounding area – this is rare, but it may indicate the presence of another condition, such as genital herpes.
Long term effects
Although Thrush does not cause serious long terms health problems, it can be unpleasant if it recurs frequently. Some women find it can cause anxiety or nervousness around sex, and can affect their sexual relationships. You can speak to a sexual health clinic or GP about longer term treatments.
In most cases, Thrush can be easily treated with a tablet taken orally or inserted into your vagina.
Anti-Thrush creams, which you apply to the skin around the vagina, can ease soreness and itchiness.
Anti-Thrush remedies are available over the counter from a pharmacy or you can get a prescription from your GP or sexual health clinic.
Treatment works well for most women, and vaginal Thrush usually clears up within a few days.
If you suffer from Thrush regularly we recommend you attend a sexual health clinic to discuss treatment and management options.
Telling your partner
Thrush is a common infection. Most people carry it on their skin or in their bowel. It is therefore unlikely that you will pass it to your partner. Your partner should only be treated if they have symptoms. If you have Thrush, you may not feel like having sex, so it may be helpful to talk to your partner about your symptoms.
How to avoid or improve Thrush
- Avoid using perfumed soaps and shower gels or other products which can irritate your skin.
If you have Thrush, it's best to avoid having sex until you've completed a course of treatment and the infection has cleared up.
Where to get tested
If you have had Thrush before, you may be able to recognise the symptoms and go straight to a pharmacy for treatment.
You can also speak to a sexual health clinic or GP about recognising and treating Thrush.
The clinician may wish to carry out a physical examination, or take a swab from inside your vagina.