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:
Use of antibiotics
Hormonal changes such as pregnancy or HRT
Perfumed vaginal products or vaginal deodorants
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)
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