It is normal for women to have some vaginal discharge. The appearance and amount of discharge will vary, according to factors such as ovulation, pregnancy or starting oral contraceptive medication. There are infections such as thrush, chlamydia and gonorrhoea that can also cause changes to vaginal discharge.…
What is Thrush?
Thrush, also known as candidiasis, monilia or a yeast infection, is a common fungal infection that typically affects the mouth, nipples or vagina. It is caused by a microorganism called Candida albicans. It is usually present in the body in small numbers. When the normal balance of microorganisms in your body is upset, Candida can overgrow, leading to thrush.
Thrush is not usually very serious, but can be irritating. It can be treated with antifungal medications or creams that are applied to the affected area.
Signs and symptoms
Thrush is a fungal infection that can affect different areas. The most commonly-affected areas are the mouth, breast and nipples and vagina.
If you have oral thrush you may experience:
- White sores or patches in the mouth or tongue;
- Redness or soreness in the affected areas, and;
- Difficulty swallowing.
Breast and nipple thrush
If you have breast or nipple thrush you may experience:
- Itching or a burning sensation on the nipples or breast;
- Breast or nipple pain;
- Red or bright pink nipples, and;
- White rash on the nipples.
Women with vaginal thrush may experience:
- Itching and irritation around the vagina;
- Swelling around the vagina;
- Thick white discharge from the vagina;
- Pain when passing urine, and;
- Pain during sex.
Men can also get thrush, but it is less common in men than in women. Men with thrush may experience a red and itchy rash on their penis.
Causes and risk factors
Thrush is a common fungal infection caused by a microorganism called Candida albicans. It is a yeast that usually lives in small numbers in the intestines, vagina or mouth. It does not usually cause any problems, but certain factors can upset the balance of Candida in your body, causing it to overgrow and lead to thrush.
Some of the things that may increase your chance of getting thrush include:
- Having diabetes;
- Treatment with certain medications, such as antibiotics or cortisone;
- Being pregnant;
- Having sex;
- Taking an oral contraceptive pill;
- Wearing tight-fitting pants or nylon underwear, and;
- Humid weather.
Methods for diagnosis
To work out if you have thrush, your doctor may examine the affected area and take a swab. This can be sent to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope to look for Candida. The swab sample may also be applied to an agar plate that selectively grows organisms, such as bacteria and yeasts, to look for the presence of Candida.
Types of treatment
If you have oral thrush, your doctor may prescribe some antifungal medications, such as a nystatin mouthwash or miconazole gel, which is applied directly to the affected area. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe an oral medication such as fluconazole.
Breast and nipple thrush
Breast and nipple thrush may be treated with medicated antifungal gels or creams that can be applied to the affected site.
If you have vaginal thrush, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal medication, such as clotrimazole, which can either be applied to the affected area as a tablet that is placed inside the vagina (vaginal tablet) or a cream that is injected into the vagina with an applicator. The cream may also be applied externally to the genital area to help relieve symptoms. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal medication such as fluconazole.
As well as medication, there are some simple things that you can do at home that may help relieve the symptoms of vaginal thrush, including:
- Wearing loose-fitting cotton pants and underwear;
- Avoiding having sex, and;
- Gently bathing the affected area and avoiding soaps and irritants.
Thrush is not usually very serious. Some mild cases may clear up on their own, without any medical treatment. A doctor can prescribe antifungal medications to help clear the infection. Some people may experience repeated episodes of thrush.
In some cases, thrush can come back after it has been treated. If you experience repeated episodes of thrush, it is best to identify and manage any factors that may be contributing to the infection, such as medications or diabetes.
You may reduce your chance of getting oral thrush if you:
- Follow a healthy diet;
- Rinse your mouth after eating;
- Practice good oral hygiene, which means brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing regularly, and;
- Having regular dental check-ups.
Breast and nipple thrush
The chance of developing breast and nipple thrush may be reduced by keeping the area around your nipples dry. This is because thrush grows best in warm and moist places.
You may be able to reduce your chance of getting vaginal thrush by:
- Wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear and pants;
- Avoiding using soaps around the genital area (they can cause irritation);
- Drying the genital area thoroughly after washing, and;
- Washing your hands after going to the toilet.
FAQ Frequently asked questions
What is candidiasis?
Candidiasis is a common fungal infection that typically affects the mouth and throat or, in women, the vagina. It is caused by a micro-organism called Candida albicans. Candidiasis is not usually very serious. It can be effectively treated with anti-fungal creams or …
What is oral candidiasis?
Oral candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by an organism called Candida albicans that can infect the mouth and throat. It can cause white sores or patches on the mouth or tongue and difficulty swallowing.
What is vaginal candidiasis?
Vaginal candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by an organism called Candida albicans. The infection causes itching, irritation and swelling around the vagina, a thick white discharge from the vagina and pain when passing urine and during sex. Men can also …
Can I have sex when I have candidiasis?
Sex during a candidiasis infection may be painful or uncomfortable. It is important to remember that candidiasis is infectious, so it is important to use protection.
What causes candidiasis?
Candidiasis is a fungal infection that occurs when there is an overgrowth of a micro-organism called Candida albicans. Although this organism is always present in the body, in the mouth and the vagina, there are some factors that cause it to overgrow and lead to …
How is candidiasis diagnosed?
Candidiasis can usually be diagnosed by a visual examination of the affected area by a doctor. A doctor may also take a swab from the affected area and examine it under a microscope.
Can candidiasis be prevented?
The chance of developing oral candidiasis can be reduced by rinsing your mouth after eating, practicing good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing regularly and having regular dental check-ups. You may be able to reduce your chance of …
How is vaginal candidiasis treated?
Vaginal candidiasis can be treated with antifungal medications, which can be applied to the affected area as a cream or taken as a tablet. Wearing loose-fitting cotton pants and underwear, avoiding sex and bathing the affected area may also help to …
What is the treatment for oral candidiasis?
Oral candidiasis can be prevented with antifungal medications such as the nystatin mouthwash or miconazole gel, which is applied to the affected area. In some cases a doctor may prescribe an oral medication such as fluconazole.