Thrush in men

You often see thrush related medicines marketed towards women, so you might wonder can men get thrush? Yes, thrush in men is pretty rare, but it does happen. If your penis is sore and itchy with a discharge, it could be male thrush. Find out more about how this common infection for women can affect men too and what to do if you’ve got thrush on your penis.

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What is male thrush?

Thrush is a yeast infection caused by an overgrowth of the yeast candida that occurs naturally in warm, moist areas, such as around the genitals and inside the mouth.

Normally it’s kept under control by your immune system. This bacterial balance can be easily upset, however, by anything from antibiotics to stress, sex or tight-fitting clothes. As a result, the fungus multiplies and causes nasty symptoms.

Is male thrush an STI?

Technically, it isn’t classed as an STI. It isn’t infectious, and it’s not something you ‘give’ to one another. However, it’s possible for people to get thrush after having sex.

“Thrush confuses people,” says Lynn Hearton at FPA. “You can get it from having sex, but it’s not a contagious thing to pass on. It’s all to do with the environment you’re putting your sexual organs into. So, if you sleep with a person with thrush, their vagina may be dryer and more alkali and this could interfere with your penis.”

But that doesn’t mean if you sleep with someone who has thrush you’ll automatically get thrush on your penis. “It depends on how much sex you’re having,” says Lynn. “If you’re having loads of sex, the head of the penis can become sore and dry, and this can make you susceptible to thrush as candida thrives on skin already damaged.”

How do you prevent thrush in men?

It’s actually very hard to get thrush on your penis (yay!). It’s much more likely you’ve got a urine infection or picked up an STI (boo!). Don’t worry, they’re generally easily treated too. Find out more in our safe sex articles here.

If you’re having sex with a someone who has thrush, it’s best to use a condom to prevent irritation for you both. Also wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear can help prevent moisture building up under your foreskin, which lowers the chances of the fungus multiplying.

Not over doing it on the highly perfumed shower gels is also important. “The penis, like the vagina, is self cleansing, so you should only use mild soap or plain water. Otherwise what you’re doing is washing away natural oils and natural bacteria that cleans from the inside out,” says Lynn.

Also, make sure you dry yourself and your bits properly after showering, as thrush loves warm and moist conditions.

Male thrush symptoms

Thrush symptoms in men usually appear around the foreskin. The head of the penis becomes sore, red and itchy at first. This is usually followed by a white, sometimes stinky, discharge under the foreskin because that area is moist and warm.

“The head of the penis can become so sore it makes peeling back the foreskin painful,” says Lynn. “This can easily be passed off as an STI.”

It can also be painful when you pee.

If you’re not experiencing any soreness and have just found a white stuff under your foreskin, it could be smegma. Find out more about smegma here.

Male thrush treatment

Thrush can be easily treated with over-the-counter creams. If in doubt, your doctor or pharmacist will be able to advise you on the most appropriate product.

How long does male thrush take to clear up?

Male thrush usually takes one or two weeks to clear up once you’ve started treatment.

It’s best to avoid sex until things have gone away. And, if you’re really sore, applying natural yoghurt can also relieve the pain, but won’t actually clear up the infection.

Can men use Canesten for thrush too?

“I have a male friend who seems to have thrush. I wanted to know if he can use Canesten before I suggest he gives it a go.”

Thrush is a yeast infection that is common in women, but as we’ve seen, it can affect men too. While it isn’t classed as a sexually transmitted infection, it’s possible for people who have thrush to (re)infect their partners.

Male thrush cream isn’t any different to the stuff that women use. The makers of Canesten thrush cream say that men can indeed use the cream. There’s no Canesten cream for men specifically, it all uses the same active ingredient, which is called clotrimazole. There are other brands of creams available besides Canesten that contain clotrimazole – your doctor or pharmacist will be able to advise you on this.

If a man thinks he has thrush, then it’s best for him to see his local doctor (GP) to get an actual diagnosis. This is because there are a range of conditions affecting the penis that may be mistaken for thrush. You can read more about various causes of inflammation of the penis in our article ‘is my penis normal?’.

Take a look around the rest of our men’s health resources here, or chat about your bodily health on our discussion boards.

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By The Mix Staff

Updated on 17-Nov-2022