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Thrush (Candidiasis)

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What Is It?

Candidiasis is a yeast infection, also known as thrush. The most common cause of thrush is a yeast or fungus called Candida albicans.

Most women will experience thrush at some point in their life. Thrush affects mucus membranes such as the head of the penis, inside of the vagina, the inside of the anus or occasionally inside the mouth and throat.

Thrush can sometimes develop after the bleeding phase of the menstrual cycle (period).

Thrush is not considered to be a sexually transmitted infection, but it can be passed on through sexual contact and activity.

Other typical factors which encourage thrush are:

  • Pregnancy
  • Taking antibiotics
  • Being overweight
  • Wearing tight clothes
  • Taking oral contraceptives
  • Stress and/or extreme tiredness
  • Diabetes
  • Heavy smoking (oral thrush)

 

Symptoms

In women thrush can cause itching, soreness and swelling of the vulva and pain when urinating (peeing). Sometimes there is a white discharge.

Men may experience irritation and inflammation around the head of the penis.

If there is anal infection, itching, redness, and soreness around the anus may be experienced.

It is also possible to get thrush in the mouth. This is itchy and can cause white patches in the roof of the mouth, throat and tongue. It also may cause swelling of the tongue and a loss of taste sensation.

 

Transmission

Thrush is transmitted through all forms of unprotected sexual activity.

As thrush develops on the penis, and inside the vagina, anus, mouth and/or throat, it is easily transmitted by contact between any of these places.

Thrush can be transmitted by vaginal or anal penetration (fucking), cunnilingus or rimming (mouth to vaginal or anus contact). Tribidism (vulva rubbing) may also lead to transmission.

 

Prevention

It is recommended that you avoid any sexual activity if you know you have thrush until the infection has been treated and cleared.

In order to protect yourself and others from the general risk of infection, use barriers such as condoms, female condoms, gloves, and glyde dams.

 

Control

Although frequent baths may soothe thrush when you have an outbreak, it is possible that this will make the discomfort worse. Avoid using soaps or disinfectants near the affected area and if your vulva is affected wash from front to back to avoid contamination with any organisms from around the anus.

If you have a regular sexual partner they should probably also get treatment – they may not have symptoms but they are still likely to be infected.

Some things you can do to ease the discomfort of thrush are:

  • Smooth some natural yoghurt onto the affected area
  • Cover a tampon with natural yoghurt and insert it into the affected vagina
  • 3 or 4 drops of tea tree oil can be added to the yoghurt as it is an anti-fungal essential oil
  • If thrush is in the mouth and throat: ice cream or similar products can help to soothe the itching

 

There are a few things you can do to decrease the risks of developing the infection.

  • Cut down on sugar and yeast
  • Eat yoghurt that contains active bacteria
  • Wear loose clothes of natural material
  • Use non-biological washing powder for your laundry
  • Use non-latex condoms or change to female condoms

Remember – Regular screening at your local STI clinic is recommended to maintain your sexual health.

Treatment

Treatment of thrush normally involves using some form of antifungal medicine. They come as creams, tablets, sprays and pessaries or suppositories (pills which you insert into the vagina or anus).

In Ireland, tablets and sprays must be prescribed by a doctor.

Creams and pessaries for thrush can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy.

If symptoms persist is it advisable to consult a doctor.