First the Facts

  • Candidiasis or ‘thrush’ is a yeast infection
  • It can affect both men and women
  • It is usually easily treated with a short course of antifungal medication
  • It is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI)

How Does Thrush Develop?

  • Thrush is caused by a yeast called Candida. Candida albicans is the commonest type of Candida
  • Candida lives naturally on the skin in most healthy people
  • Overgrowth of Candida can cause symptoms in some people
  • Certain conditions can cause overgrowth of Candida, including:
    • Diabetes
    • Medications such as steroids and antibiotics
    • Conditions affecting the immune systems such as HIV
  • You can also get thrush from unprotected sex with an infected partner

How Will I Know If I Have Thrush?

Symptoms of penile thrush include:

  • Irritation and/or redness affecting the head of the penis (balanitis)
  • A clear or white discharge
  • An offensive smell
  • Itch

How Can I Prevent Thrush?

  • Thrush develops in warm, moist conditions
  • After washing, keep your penis dry and wear loose-fitting underwear, preferably made from cotton
  • Do not use soaps and shower gels when washing your penis
  • Although it is not an STI, if your partner has thrush, you can use condoms to prevent transmission

Where Can I Get Tested?

  • If you are experiencing symptoms for the first time, you should see a doctor or nurse
  • This is because you may need to be tested for other infections that present in the same way
  • You can see a doctor or specialist nurse at:
    • A sexual health or genitourinary medicine clinic
    • A young person’s / contraception clinic
    • Your GP

What Is the Treatment?

  • An anti-fungal capsule (fluconazole) or cream (clotrimazole) can easily treat thrush
  • Treatment only takes a few days and is available from the pharmacy
  • You do not need a prescription
  • Sex is best avoided until you have completed your treatment, to prevent passing the infection back and forth. A condom can split, so it is better to not have sex at all for this time

What Happens If I Get Thrush Again?

  • Thrush can come back at anytime
  • You can treat this yourself with antifungal medication from the pharmacy
  • You should see your doctor if:
    • Your symptoms do not improve after treatment
    • You have more than 4 episodes of thrush per year
  • This is because you may need further tests to identify an underlying cause
  • You may need an extended course of treatment or a different treatment


Written by: Dr David Rook and Dr Paula Briggs
Last updated: January 2021

Related Posts

This post summarizes the state of knowledge on ectopic pregnancy, a rare but life-threatening complication of pregnancy. Although it only...
Some people have a testicle on only one side. On the other side, the testicle is completely missing or it...
It is important that all lumps within your scrotum, on or alongside your testicle are examined by a doctor. Even...


Share your opinion with us and leave a comment below!