Thrush is caused an overgrowth of yeast. It’s common and anyone can get it.
It’s not an STI. It’s unusual for it to be passed on during sex, but some people find they get it after having sex.
Vaginal thrush is very common. Around 75% of women and people with uteruses will have it at some point. It can be uncomfortable but it’s very easily treated. It's not a threat to your health.
What causes thrush?
Everyone has a small amount of candida albicans – the yeast that causes thrush – in their bodies. It can be on the skin and in the mouth, bowel, gut and vagina. It’s usually kept under control by the immune system and doesn’t cause any problems.
In most people, thrush develops without a specific trigger, but you may be more likely to develop thrush if you:
have recently taken antibiotics
use perfumed soaps and shower gels to wash your genitals
use scented sanitary towels or tampons
are pregnant, so your hormone levels are changing
have a weakened immune system
have uncontrolled diabetes
Slight irritation and friction to an area can also trigger thrush. This is why some people get thrush after sex or masturbation.
What are the symptoms?
The signs of vaginal thrush can include:
itching and soreness around the entrance of the vagina
a stinging sensation when you urinate
vaginal discharge – usually thick and white, often described as being like cottage cheese
pain during vaginal sex
You may also have more severe symptoms, such as:
red and swollen vagina and vulva
cracked skin around the entrance of your vagina, that may bleed
Thrush of the penis and male genitals is a lot less common. Symptoms usually appear around the head of the penis and the foreskin. They include:
irritation, burning and redness
a thick, white build up
difficulty pulling back the foreskin
Long term effects
Although thrush does not cause serious long-term health problems, it can be upsetting if you keep getting it. Some people find it can cause anxiety around sex, and can affect their sexual relationships.
If you experience thrush regularly, we recommend speaking to someone at a sexual health clinic or your GP. They can help with management and treatment options.
Testing and treatment
You can get thrush treatment over the counter at pharmacies. It's
You can also speak to a sexual health clinic or GP about recognising and treating thrush. It's a good idea to see someone if:
it’s the first time you’ve had the symptoms
you're under 16 or over 60
you’ve had thrush more than 4 times in 12 months
you're pregnant or breastfeeding
you have a weakened immune system
They may carry out a physical examination and take a swab from the affected area. Then they can offer you prescription treatment or suggest the right over-the-counter ones.
Thrush can usually be treated quite easily with tablets. Some are taken orally, others inserted into your vagina.
Anti-thrush creams, which you apply to the skin around the entrance to the vagina, can ease soreness and itchiness. Remember these creams can weaken condoms and cause them to break.
Most people find the treatments work well and that vaginal thrush clears up within a few days, but it can take up to 2 weeks. Always use your treatment for as long as you’ve been instructed to by your nurse, doctor or pharmacist.