What is it?
Thrush is an infection caused by a yeast fungus called candida albicans.
It's not a sexually transmitted infection but can sometimes develop after you've had sex. It can develop in the vagina and on the genitals.
It's a very common cause of unusual vaginal discharge – 3 out of 4 people with a vagina will have thrush at some point.
How do I get it?
Candida albicans/yeast usually lives harmlessly on the skin and in the mouth, gut, and vagina. Occasionally, however, signs and symptoms can develop. This is commonly known as thrush, thrush infection or candida.
Your chances of developing thrush increase if you:
- are pregnant
- wear tight clothing (such as tight jeans) or synthetic clothing (such as nylon underwear)
- are taking antibiotics
- are having chemotherapy
- have uncontrolled diabetes, HIV or other illnesses that affect your immune system
- use products that may irritate the vagina, such as vaginal deodorant or perfumed bubble bath or shower gel
Signs and Symptoms
Some people won’t have any signs or symptoms at all.
If you do get symptoms, you might notice:
- itching, soreness and redness or fissures (like paper cuts) around the vagina, vulva or anus.
- unusual, white discharge from the vagina that may be thick and look like cottage cheese – it sometimes smells yeasty
- pain when passing urine or having sex
- irritation, burning, itching, redness or fissures (like paper cuts) under the foreskin or on the tip of the penis
- a thin or thicker discharge, like cottage cheese, under the foreskin which sometimes smells yeasty
- difficulty in pulling back the foreskin.
It’s not always necessary to have a test for thrush. If you do have a test, a doctor or nurse may:
- look at the genital area, the vagina or the penis
- use a swab to collect a sample from the vagina
- use a swab to collect a sample from the penis and genital area, including under the foreskin.
A swab looks like a cotton bud, but is smaller, soft and rounded. The swab is wiped over the parts of the body that could be affected and easily picks up samples. It only takes a few seconds and isn’t usually painful, though it may be uncomfortable for a moment.
Sometimes it’s possible for you to get the test result straight away. Otherwise you’ll have to wait up to two weeks to get your result.
Treatment is simple and only necessary if you have signs and symptoms of thrush.
- You may be given antifungal cream to apply to the genital area, vaginal pessaries (tablets that you put into your vagina), pills or a combination. The doctor or nurse will tell you how to use the treatment.
- You can buy some antifungal treatments from a pharmacy – these are useful if you’re sure you have thrush and want to treat it yourself. The pharmacist will answer any questions and explain how to use the treatment.
- It’s very important to take the treatment as instructed and finish any course of treatment even if the symptoms go away earlier.
Further Guidance: Thrush