Vaginal Thrush

Vaginal thrush is an infection that is caused by yeast fungi that causes the vagina and the surrounding area to itch, to become irritated and to swell. These symptoms may also be accompanied by a thick, creamy discharge that is often described as looking like cottage cheese.


Thrush is an extremely common condition amongst women. Around three quarters of all women will suffer with it at some point in their lives and up to fifty per cent of those women will suffer with it more than once.

It most commonly affects women who are in their twenties and thirties. It is not so common amongst women who have gone through the menopause or in young women who have not yet started their periods.

Although vaginal thrush is a harmless condition it is nevertheless something that can cause discomfort and be embarrassment.


What causes vaginal thrush?

Vaginal thrush is a yeast infection that is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. Most women will have Candida albicans present in their vaginas without having any symptoms. It only becomes a problem when the natural balance within the vagina is disrupted.

Thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection. It can, however, be passed on during sex, so if you are suffering with the condition then you should avoid having sex until you have been treated and the infection has cleared up.


You are more likely to experience vaginal thrush if you:

  • Are pregnant.
  • Are taking antibiotics.
  • Are diabetic.
  • Are suffering with a weakened immune system.



When a woman is pregnant there are significant hormonal changes which orrur in her body. These hormonal changes greatly increase the chance of a woman developing vaginal thrush.



Women who are taking antibiotics are much more likely to develop vaginal thrush than women who are not. Statistics show that about one third of women who are taking antibiotics will develops thrush. This is because the medication kills the friendly bacteria, which live in the vagina and keep its PH balance.



If you have diabetes that is poorly managed, and your glucose levels fluctuate, then your chances of developing thrush increases.


A weak immune system

If your immune system has been weakened, then your chance of developing thrush increases. This can occur as the result of a condition such as HIV / AIDS or if you are undergoing a course of chemotherapy.


 What are the symptoms of vaginal thrush?

 Typical symptoms of vaginal thrush include:

 Having a sore and itchy vagina.

  • Experiencing pain whilst having sex.
  • Pain when urinating.
  • A discharge from the vagina that can be either watery or thick, with the consistency and appearance of cottage cheese.


Severe symptoms of vaginal thrush

The symptoms of vaginal thrush may, in some cases, be more severe than those listed above. Severe symptoms may include:

 A swollen and red vagina and vulva.

  • Skin around the vagina that is cracked and sore
  • Sores in the area surrounding the vagina, though this is a rare complication and will often indicate that there is another fungal condition present or the herpes simplex virus.


What should you do if you think you have vaginal thrush?

If you think that you might have thrush and you have never had it before then you should make an appointment to see your GP. This is because thrush has symptoms that are similar to those which are caused by certain STIs and your GP will be able to decide if you have thrush or something else.

If you’ve had thrush before and are able to recognize the symptoms then you do not need to see your GP but rather can go straight to a pharmacy and buy the medication that you need. This can be done over the counter.  You do not need a prescription to get hold of anti-thrush treatments.

If you are having constant bouts of vaginal thrush or you feel that it is not clearing up with over the counter treatments then we recommend that you see your own GP, who can carry out an examination and see what is happening.


How is vaginal thrush treated?

Thrush is an easily treated condition. You can either take tablets orally or use an anti-thrush pessary that is administered by insertion into the vagina.

An anti-thrush cream will help to ease any soreness, inflammation or itchiness that you may be experiencing on the skin around the vagina.

These treatments are extremely effective and most women will find that the infection clears up within a few days.


Some women, however, will find that they have recurrent Thrush. This happens to about one in twenty women and is categorized as having more than four episodes of thrush every year. About one per cent of women will suffer with thrush constantly. Sometimes a longer course of treatment, which may last up to six months, is needed to clear up these cases.


For more info on vaginal thrush, go to the NHS dedicated page.