Vaginal thrush is a very common condition that most women will experience at least once. It is a yeast infection that causes itching, irritation when urinating, and swelling of the vagina and surrounding area and can sometimes cause a watery or white discharge. In more severe cases, the skin around the vagina can become swollen, dry and can crack and become very sore.
Thrush can affect women of any age or skin type, but is more common during times of hormonal imbalance such as pregnancy, menstruation and menopause. It is thought that around 5% of women will experience recurrent or “complicated” thrush – that is, they will experience thrush 4 or more times in a year.
Thrush on other areas of the body
It is not uncommon for men to experience thrush on their penis, causing similar symptoms to vaginal thrush. Itchy, sore, red and swollen skin around the intimate area can be experienced, as well as discharge from the penis.
Men, women and babies can also experience thrush in the mouth. Oral thrush is not contagious, and is usually easily treated. Again is it usually caused by yeast, and occurs when there is an imbalance in the mouths natural environment.
Oral thrush can cause a loss or alteration of taste, redness and pain of the mouth and throat, cracks at the corner of the mouth, and white patches or ‘plaques’ inside the mouth that can be wiped away.
Vaginal Thrush Causes & Triggers
Thrush is usually caused by a yeast-type fungus called Candida albicans. Many women have Candida in their vagina all the time and don’t experience any symptoms. It is only when something alters the skin’s natural balance that symptoms arise. For example:
- Hormone fluctuations – menstruation, pregnancy, menopause
- Taking antibiotics for a non-related condition. (Antibiotics can kill off friendly bacteria as well as unwanted
- bacteria, and this impairs the body’s ability to maintain balanced skin)
- Underlying health problems, such as diabetes or a weakened immune system
- Using harsh chemicals in the intimate area, such as harsh soaps or shower gels
- Fragranced sanitary products such as tampons or liners
- Wearing tight clothing or synthetic material, particularly in humid conditions
- Douching, or washing too frequently can upset the balance of the vagina
- Thrush is not a sexually transmitted disease (STI), but it can be passed on to a sexual partner, so care should be taken during a flare up.
Triggers of oral thrush can include:
- Taking antibiotics, which can cause friendly bacteria to die off and allow fungus or unwanted bacteria to multiply.
- Using inhalers or puffers for asthma or lung conditions
- Wearing false teeth, dentures, a plate or dental implants, particularly if they don’t fit well
- Underlying health conditions or taking medications which may cause dry mouth (Xerostomia)
- A weakened immune system
Vaginal Thrush Treatments
Treatment for “uncomplicated” vaginal thrush can include antifungal creams, pessaries that can be inserted into the vagina, or tablets to be taken orally, however you may want a seek more natural, and gentle, treatment.