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Vaginal thrush

Vaginal thrush

What is vaginal thrush?

Thrush is usually caused by a yeast fungal infection (called candida) in the vagina, causing characteristic itching and a white discharge. It is very common, and a large proportion of women will have at least one episode of thrush within their lifetime.

Episodes of thrush can be precipitated by:

  • Sex
  • Use of antibiotics
  • Hormonal changes such as pregnancy or HRT
  • Perfumed vaginal products or vaginal deodorants
  • Diabetes
  • Having a weakened immune system (such as caused by uncontrolled HIV or chemotherapy)

Thrush is not considered a sexually transmitted infection - although it can be passed between couples during sex.

Symptoms of thrush?

  • White, creamy discharge (often described as ‘cottage-cheese’ like)
  • Itching
  • Soreness and redness around the vagina
  • Soreness or stinging when passing urine or having sex

How to treat thrush?

Thrush is treated with antifungal medication. This is applied as a cream twice a day to the genital region and can be bought over-the-counter from pharmacies. The most common preparation contains the active ingredient clotrimazole. Pessaries (a tablet inserted into the vagina) containing clotrimazole are also very effective, and can be used in conjunction with a cream.

It is best to avoid sexual intercourse while treating a thrush infection, as the yeast can pass to a partner who may not exhibit symptoms, but who can then pass it back causing re-infection when sexual intercourse resumes.

If the infection fails to fully resolve with topical treatments, some women may require a prescription of a one-off dose of an oral antifungal agent. This can be prescribed by a GP, or obtained from some pharmacies.

Women suffering repeated episodes of thrush may find it helpful to:

  • Use water and an emollient, rather than soap, to wash
  • Wear cotton underwear (and avoid synthetic materials such as nylon)
  • Avoid any vaginal perfumed products
  • Avoid tights, tight trousers or underwear
  • Avoid vaginal douching (cleaning the inside of the vagina with water)

Some women also find probiotics useful in helping to prevent thrush infections.

If thrush continues to be recurrent despite the above measures, then a GP can prescribed longer courses of antifungal medication - sometimes up to 6 months of treatment may be required.

When to see a GP?

  • If you have a new vaginal discharge and are not sure whether it is thrush of not
  • If you have recurrent episodes of vaginal thrush
  • If you are pregnant
  • If you have diabetes
  • If you have a weakened immune system
Reviewed by:

Dr Rhianna McClymont

Lead GP at Livi

Last updated: