Thrush, also known as 'candidiasis' is a common condition caused by a yeast-like fungus. The most common fungus to cause thrush is Candida albicans. It can develop in the mouth, inside the vagina, on the end of the penis and on the surface of the skin. It can be passed on from one person to another but it is not a sexually transmitted disease.It affects far more women than it does men because the most common site of infection is the vagina. The signs and symptoms of vaginal thrush are itching, redness and soreness around the vagina, a thick, white and odourless vaginal discharge, a burning sensation, pain while urinating and painful sex. In men thrush can cause itching, redness and soreness around the tip of the penis and beneath the foreskin, a discharge from the end of the penis and pain or burning while urinating.

Babies commonly develop oral thrush. Oral thrush can present itself as white, raised patches inside the mouth and on the tongue. Thrush can also develop around the nappy area. Nappy rash appears as redness together with white patches if it is complicated with thrush.

Causes

Thrush is caused by a yeast-like fungus. Fungus grows naturally inside the mouth, gut, vagina and on the surface of the skin. Bacteria that also live in our bodies usually keep the growth of fungus under control. However, sometimes the number of bacteria reduce and the fungus begins to grow out of control causing thrush.Hormonal changes in women: Menstrual periods, taking the contraceptive pill and pregnancy all cause hormonal changes which can alter the conditions inside the vagina causing overgrowth of fungus.Medicines Antibiotics kill bacteria, therefore taking antibiotics can allow fungus to grow out of control. Medicines that prevent the body's immune system over-reacting such as those taken to treat asthma can also lead to thrush.

Diabetics tend to be more prone to thrush. Fungi feed on sugars therefore this susceptibility could be due to high blood glucose levels. Those who use vaginal deodorants, bath additives and talcum powders can become more susceptible to thrush.

Avoiding Thrush

  • Personal hygiene is very important, especially around the genital area. Change underwear daily.If you are prone to thrush, avoid using bath additives and talcum powders. Women should not use vaginal deodorants.Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing and man-made fibres as they create a warm, moist environment in which fungus thrives. Try wearing loose clothing and natural fibres and wear stockings or hold-ups instead of tights
  • Women should wipe from front to back after going to the toilet

Treatment

There are many anti-fungal treatments available on the market to treat thrush. They can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy. The treatments for thrush vary depending on who they are for and what area of the body is affected. Anti-fungals are available as topical preparations (those applied directly to the affected area) and oral preparations (those that are taken by mouth). Topical preparations are usually recommended because they begin to work straight away in exactly the right place.If thrush affects the genital area, remember that any sexual partners should be treated at the same time. Use a condom during sexual intercourse until the infection has cleared.Live yoghurt can be used to treat vaginal thrush. The yoghurt encourages bacteria to grow and the bacteria then control the production of yeast. If you have thrush, take showers instead of hot baths.

When To See A Doctor

Pregnant women, diabetics, those under sixteen, those over sixty, first time sufferers, those who do not respond to treatment, those who suffer repeated attacks of thrush and those who have problems with their body's defence or immune system should all see a doctor.

Consult your doctor if you develop sores in the genital area, or if you are a woman and you develop foul-smelling vaginal discharge or blood (other than menstrual blood).