Vaginal thrush is a common yeast infection that affects most women at some point in their lives, with up to three-quarters of women developing this infection. Thrush may be unpleasant and uncomfortable, but thankfully is generally very easily treated with antifungal medication available from a pharmacy or through obtaining a prescription from your GP. Unfortunately, around 1 in 20 women will experience recurring vaginal thrush, in which the infection returns at least 4 times per year. It is a good idea to visit your GP, especially if it is your first time experiencing thrush symptoms, if you have experienced thrush more than two times in the last six months, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or if you have unusual symptoms such as odourful discharge or sores appearing around the vulva.
What is thrush?
Vaginal thrush is a fungal infection of the vagina or vulva caused by an overgrowth of the candida yeast germ. Our immune system and beneficial bacteria usually prevent candida from thriving, however, the germ can grow and infect the vagina under certain conditions. Thrush is not considered to be a sexually transmitted disease, although the infection can be passed on through sexual intercourse. In most cases, there is no obvious reason why the yeast infection has occurred. There are a number of factors, however, which can increase the likelihood of obtaining a vaginal yeast infection.
- If you are taking antibiotic medication.
- If you are pregnant.
- If your immune system is compromised.
- If you are undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
- If you are taking high-dose steroids.
- If you have a monthly menstrual cycle.
What are the symptoms and what should I look out for?
The most common symptoms of thrush to watch out for include;
- Itchiness and soreness around the labia of the vagina
- Noticeable vaginal discharge that can either be thick and white or thin and watery, which is usually odourless.
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Sores or redness around the skin
How is thrush treated?
Thrush is treated with antifungal medications that can come in either an oral capsule, pessary or cream form. In most cases, these treatments are usually prescribed for at least two weeks. A mistake that can be made, however, is to stop treatment as soon as symptoms begin to fade. Although you may no longer be experiencing symptoms, it is highly recommended to continue treatment for an additional 7 days after symptoms have disappeared. It is also recommended to avoid sexual intercourse when using the antifungal cream if you use latex condoms as the antifungal cream can “freeze” the latex and make them ineffective as a barrier to both sperm and STIs.
How can I prevent getting thrush?
Although there is no obvious cause of infection in most cases of thrush, there are a couple of areas of precaution that can be undertaken.
Hygiene: Thrush occurs when the natural conditions of the vagina are altered. This can be from excess cleaning of the vagina, taking bubble baths or using spermicides. The normal germs in the vagina can be upset by these conditions, so it’s best to just wash with unscented soap and water and to avoid taking too many bubble baths – as relaxing as they might be!
Medication: Yeast infections are more likely to occur when taking antibiotic medication. This is due to the medication killing off the beneficial bacteria in the vagina, which helps prevent an overgrowth of the candida yeast germ. Taking probiotics or other forms of anti-thrush medication while on antibiotics can significantly reduce the risk of infection.
Sex: Although thrush is not considered to be a sexually transmitted infection, sex can be a factor in its occurrence. Friction during sex can sometimes cause minor damage to the vagina, which can make the candida germ more likely to thrive. Ensuring that the vagina is well lubricated, by using a silicone or water-based lubricant, before having penetrative sex can reduce the chances of damaging the vagina and causing a yeast infection.
If you are concerned about your symptoms or are burdened by recurring yeast infections, book an online video consultation with one of our doctors today.