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.
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
- Have a weakened immune system due to HIV or other conditions.
Symptoms can include:
- Irritation, burning or itching under the foreskin or on the tip of the penis
- Redness, or red patches under the foreskin or on the tip of the penis
- A discharge under the foreskin that may look like cottage cheese – there may also be an unpleasant smell
- Difficulty pulling back the foreskin of your penis.
Thrush as a skin infection can develop in areas of the body such as armpits, groin, between fingers or the skin between your genitals and anus.
Some men may not experience any signs or symptoms of Thrush.
Long term effects
Occasionally, male partners of women who have Thrush can develop a condition called candidal balanitis, where the head of the penis becomes inflamed. This can be treated.
Anti-Thrush remedies are available over the counter from a pharmacy or you can get a prescription from your GP or sexual health clinic.
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
- Dry your penis carefully after washing (as Candida tends to grow in warm and moist conditions or on damaged skin)
- 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.