What you need to know about vaginal thrush and its symptoms

Thrush is an infection caused by types of fungal yeast called Candida spp., which commonly live around the vaginal area and on the skin. These types of fungal yeast are usually harmless. The body’s immune system and the harmless bacteria that also live in the vagina and on the skin usually stop Candida from causing any harm.

However, when conditions are conducive for Candida spp. to multiply, they do so and invade the vagina, causing thrush symptoms.

Vaginal thrush symptoms

It often appears like thrush develops for no apparent reason, affecting more than half of all women at least once in their lives. The infection is the second most common cause of vaginal discharge after bacterial vaginosis. Discharge from thrush is usually a thick, white substance, but it can also be watery sometimes. The discharge from thrush does not usually smell.

Vaginal thrush causes redness, itch, pain and or discomfort around the outside of the vulva (vagina) and some women with thrush may experience discomfort or pain when passing urine or having sex. Oftentimes, thrush symptoms are minor and clear up on their own, but in some cases symptoms can be quite irritating and refuse to go away without treatment.

Thrush treatment options

The two main treatment options for thrush are tablets and topical treatments.

  • Topical treatment

For topical treatment, creams and pessaries are inserted into the vagina with an applicator. These contain anti-yeast medication, such as as econazole, clotrimazole or miconazole. A single large dose inserted into the vagina is usually enough to clear a bout of thrush.

  • Tablet treatment

Two tablet options are provided: Itraconazole, which is taken as two doses over the course of one day; and Fluconazole, which is taken as a single dose.

Fluconazole can be bought without a prescription from pharmacies, while the other treatment options can be obtained on prescription.

Preventing (and relieving) thrush

The following measures may help to prevent and relieve symptoms of thrush:

  • Avoid washing underwear with fabric conditioners and biological washing powders or liquids.
  • Avoid using perfumed products around the vaginal area, such as shower gels and scented soaps.
  • Use a simple emollient daily as a moisturiser to protect the vulva and the skin
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing and natural fibre underwear where possible. Tight fitting clothing, especially made from synthetic material may cause further irritation.

If you still have thrush symptoms a week after starting treatment, see your doctor as soon as possible. Vaginal discharge and or vulval itch can be caused by a number of other underlying issues. Do not assume all discharges are thrush.

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