It might be a common yeast infection that most women will experience at least once. But there is nothing ordinary about the symptoms of vaginal thrush. Itchiness. Burning. Redness. Painful sex. It can be more than unpleasant. The sooner it’s treated, however, the quicker it’s gone. Plus there are things you can do to help prevent repeat infections.
Vaginal thrush is an imbalance of a woman’s natural flora caused by an overgrowth of the yeast, candida albicans. Candida is naturally present in the bowel and vagina in low concentrations where it plays a protective role against infections. But symptoms can develop if its numbers multiply.
Thrush is also called candidiasis or monilia.
Tell-tale symptoms of thrush can include vaginal itch and sensation of burning, a white cottage cheese-like discharge with a yeasty smell, or stinging while passing urine. Other symptoms can include redness or swelling of the vulva or vagina, splits in the delicate genital skin or painful sex. Vaginal creams or pessaries (vaginal dissolving tablets) are often first-line treatments for reducing symptoms.
Thrush is not considered an STI (sexually transmitted infection) – it’s a natural flora imbalance. While technically a penis could be infected with thrush during unprotected sex with a partner, it’s not commonly the case.
Thrush can be triggered by changes in hormones, including a new or change of hormonal contraceptive method like the oral contraceptive pill, progesterone intrauterine device (IUD), or other progesterone contraceptive methods. Some women are more prone to thrush attacks around their periods and during pregnancy for this reason.
Antibiotic use can also lead to thrush as it causes good bacteria to be thrown out of balance. Sometimes the reason for candida overgrowth can’t be identified.
In men, thrush symptoms can be similar to those of an STI. They can experience burning, itching, irritation under the foreskin or on the tip of the penis, redness of the head of the penis with a tight foreskin or discharge. It’s really important in this scenario to see a doctor and be assessed for other STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, as symptomatic male penile thrush is fairly uncommon.
A weakened immune system, or an illness like diabetes may make both men and women more susceptible to thrush.
What are the most common remedies for treating thrush?
Treatments for thrush aim to reduce the concentration of candida, so the good bacteria of the vagina - dominant lactobacilli - can regain control. First-line, over the counter options from a pharmacy include anti-fungal creams, pessaries and oral tablets. If thrush is chronic and not getting better, see a doctor.
To prevent thrush, wear clothing that breathes, eat a diet rich in probiotics – found in foods such as natural yogurt - and minimise pubic hair removal, at least until symptoms are gone.
Lovers' Real Love can also help. This lubricant is sensational as a daily treatment for women who suffer recurrent thrush. It helps to maintain the ideal microbiome and make sex comfortable. Real Love contains thrush repellent ingredients that encourage the dominance of vaginal good bacteria, including soothing boric acid, coconut oil and natural honey. Real Love also moisturises with cocoa butter to help skin heal and be protected.