First the Facts

  • Candidiasis or ‘thrush’ is a yeast infection
  • It can affect both women and men
  • 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 lives naturally in the vagina and is referred to in medical terms as a vaginal commensal organism
  • Overgrowth of Candida can cause symptoms in some people
  • Certain conditions can cause overgrowth of Candida, including:
    • Pregnancy
    • 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 vaginal thrush include:

  • A thick white discharge (like cottage-cheese)
  • Irritation or stinging when you pass urine
  • An offensive smell
  • Itchiness and/or pain in the vagina and vulva (area outside the vagina)
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

How Can I Prevent Thrush?

  • Thrush develops in warm, moist conditions
  • After washing, keep the skin on the outside of your vagina (vulva) dry and wear loose-fitting underwear, preferably made from cotton
  • Do not use soaps, shower gels or vaginal douches to clean your vagina/vulva
  • Although it is not an STI, if your partner has thrush, the infection can be transmitted between partners and barrier contraception is recommended

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?

  • A short course of anti-fungal medication is usually sufficient to treat thrush. This may involve a:
    • Capsule or tablet – taken orally
    • Pessary – inserted into the vagina sometimes with an applicator
    • Vaginal cream – inserted into the vagina with an applicator
  • Treatment only takes a few days and is available from the pharmacy
  • You do not need a prescription
  • Do not have sex until you have completed your treatment, as there is a small risk of passing the infection back and forth
  • Thrush is not classified as an STI, so your partner(s) do(es) not need to be treated unless symptoms are present
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not have oral treatment. However, it is perfectly safe to use the pessary or vaginal cream
  • Some people use probiotic yoghurts to treat and prevent thrush; there is no evidence that this is effective

What Happens If I Get Thrush Again?

  • Thrush can come back at any time
  • 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
  • There are rare strains of the fungus which causes thrush, and these do not respond to regular treatments


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

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