Vaginal thrush is a common yeast infection that affects most women at some point. Symptoms can include:
- Itching and soreness
- Odourless discharge that can be thick and white or thin and watery
- Pain during sex
- Red, swollen or cracked skin around the vagina or sores
Vaginal thrush is usually caused by yeasts from a group of fungi called Candida that are naturally occurring in the vagina. Thrush develops when the natural balance of bacteria and fungus in the vagina is disrupted allowing candida to grow.
You’re more likely to get thrush if you:
- Are in your 20s and 30s
- Are pregnant
- Have taken antibiotics
- Have poorly controlled diabetes
- Have a weakened immune system
Vaginal thrush isn’t classed as a sexually transmitted disease although it can be triggered by sex and it can be passed onto sexual partners.
Thrush is usually treated with antifungal medication available as pessaries, oral capsules or creams and gels. These can be bought over the counter in the pharmacy. The symptoms will usually clear up within a week or two. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take oral anti-fungal capsules.
If you get thrush often, these steps may also help:
- Use water and a moisturiser soap substitute to clean the skin around your vagina, but avoid cleaning this area more than once a day
- Apply a greasier moisturiser to the skin around your vagina several times a day to protect it (NB these can weaken condoms)
- Avoid perfumed soaps, shower gels, vaginal deodorants, wipes and douches
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting underwear or tights
- if you have diabetes, make sure your blood sugar level is kept under control
Seek advice from your GP if you:
- Have thrush for the first time
- Have symptoms that don’t improve after 1 to 2 weeks of treatment
- Are under 16 or over 60
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Have coloured or smelly discharge or sores on the skin around your vagina
- Have abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Have lower abdominal pain
- Have had thrush twice within the last six months
- Have had a reaction to antifungal treatment in the past or if it hasn’t worked
- You or your partner have previously had a sexually transmitted infection and you think it might have returned
Treatment for Vaginal thrush is available on the Minor ailments scheme.