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What is vaginal thrush? The causes and how to treat it

What is vaginal thrush? The causes and how to treat it

Vaginal thrush is a common yeast infection that affects 75% [1] majority of women at some point in their lifetime, so it’s not something to shy away from talking about.

Although the symptoms of vaginal thrush can be extremely unpleasant and uncomfortable at times, in most cases, it can be easily treated with medication that has been prescribed from your doctor or bought over-the-counter.

In rare cases, vaginal thrush can be difficult to treat, and some women report repeat cases of the condition. If this happens, it’s important to seek professional medical help.

What is vaginal thrush?

Vaginal thrush is a common infection. Also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis [2], it is a yeast infection caused by high levels of the yeast known as Candida albicans [3]. This yeast is found naturally in both the vagina and bowel and is harmless unless levels increase.

What are the symptoms of vaginal thrush?

Vaginal thrush has several symptoms, which vary based on its severity.

Common symptoms of vaginal thrush include: 

  • Itching and soreness around the entrance of the vagina
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Stinging sensation when passing urine
  • Pain during sex
  • Red, swollen or cracked skin around the vagina [4]

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, it’s likely that you are suffering from vaginal thrush.

What are the causes of vaginal thrush?

Thrush is caused by a yeast called Candida that tends to grow in warm, moist conditions. It develops if the balance of bacteria changes, which can happen if your skin is irritated or damaged. Although it is normally harmless, the symptoms it causes can be unpleasant.

How to treat vaginal thrush

Symptoms of mild thrush can usually be managed using a short course of antifungal medication, which generally clear up symptoms within a week or two[5].

However, if your thrush is severe or does not clear up within a week, you should speak to your pharmacist or doctor for an alternative method of treatment.

The main three main types of treatment:

  • Capsules
  • Pessaries
  • Intravaginal creams
  • The right treatment for you will depend on your individual symptoms

When should you seek medical advice from your doctor or sexual health clinic? 

You should seek medical advice from your doctor or a sexual health clinic if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are experiencing thrush for the first time
  • You’re pregnant or breastfeeding
  • You have abnormal vaginal bleeding or pain in your lower tummy
  • You’re under the age of 16 or over 60
  • You have unusual symptoms
  • You’ve had two episodes of thrush within the last six months
  • You’ve reacted badly to antifungal treatment in the past
  • Your antifungal treatment hasn’t worked
  • Your symptoms don’t improve after 7-14 days of your initial treatment

Remember, thrush is very common, and in most cases, it is nothing to worry about.

In cases where your thrush is severe or you are having continuous flair ups, your doctor may want to take a swab from your vagina to confirm the diagnosis and carry out tests to check for any underlying causes.