Plagued by nasty itching and vaginal discharge? It could be thrush. Here are the symptoms and how to deal with it.

itchy girl

The itch of thrush can drive you mad...

What is thrush?

Thrush is an infection caused by excessive growth of a yeast called Candida. Candida is naturally present in the human body and does not normally cause any problems. However, in certain conditions it starts to reproduce rapidly and causes thrush.

What is an attack of thrush like?

It can be so mild it goes unnoticed or so unbearable it makes you cry. Everyone’s bodies are different, but expect a thick, white, lumpy vaginal discharge, a sore vagina and intensely itchy vulva.

“Candida in women is linked to hormones, so throughout the month the vagina changes. You might get mild itching before a period, or be so sore you can barely sit down,” says Lynn at fpa. “It’s about knowing your body and understanding how it functions.”

What causes thrush?

There are several factors that make perfect breeding grounds for thrush, including:

Warmth and moisture – thick tights, cheap nylon underwear, and tight jeans. Skinny jeans are thrush’s best mate.

High sugar levels – eating too much Haribo, drinking too much alcohol, or being diabetic.

Hormone changes – being on the pill or being pregnant.

Antibiotics – these kill the friendly bacteria that stop the yeast growing

Damaged skin – Rough sex can bring thrush on. Those vaginal deodorants are bad too, as well as washing your vag out with perfumed soap.

General poor health – if you’re tired, stressed or anaemic.

Wiping yourself from ‘back to front’ after going to the toilet – yeasts and bacteria in the bumhole can get wiped onto the vulva

Why do I get thrush every time I have sex?

Thrusting = friction, friction = dryness. Hello thrush. Unless you’re fully lubed up, you’re going to be susceptible to thrush if you’re shagging a lot.

“The vagina gets dried out during sex and the lining becomes damaged and therefore the candida can multiply and become an infection,” says Lynn. “Everyone’s so hung up on STIs it’s easy to forget about the normal stuff, like too much sex can make you sore,” she says. “When sex feels painful so many people think, ‘oh my god I’ve got Chlamydia, but not necessarily’.”

Are you using condoms? These too could be drying – but that doesn’t mean you should ditch them, just add more lube. And if latex is the problem, switch to a non-latex product.

The biggest cause of thrush though? Lack. Of. Foreplay. “Lots of people go for it before they’re ready. If you’re having prolonged sex you probably need to top up on lube,” advises Lynn.

How do you get rid of thrush?

The standard treatment for thrush is pessaries (tablets that are placed high up inside the vagina with an applicator) and soothing cream that kills the yeast. The commonest brands are called Canesten and Nystan, and are available on prescription and over the counter.

Pessaries can get a bit messy…in a ‘drippy’ way, so it’s best to insert one at night — but try and resist wearing a panty liner.

“Panty liners – especially scented ones – dry out the vagina. And if you buy a vaginal deodorant you might as well buy a tube of Canestan at the same time,” says Lynn.

Many women say that putting natural live yoghurt on the area is very soothing. The bacteria naturally keep the yeast under control. “Use it if it helps, but you’ll probably need cream if it’s a particularly bad bout,” says Lynn.

Avoiding soap and detergents helps the skin to heal. And if you aren’t absolutely sure it’s thrush, go see your doctor to make sure it isn’t an STI.

What if it keeps coming back?

Talk to your GP about it. You can try a longer course of pessaries and cream; always remember to finish the course. And there’s a one-dose tablet you can take by mouth that many women find very effective.

Also avoiding everything that makes an attack of thrush more likely. So maybe wear some baggy jeans for a while and schedule in a few DVD nights with your boyfriend.

“And if you’re not getting relief from the cream or pessary within 24-48 hours then get yourself checked out. There’s always the possibility if it’s not going away that it’s an STI,” says Lynn.

What if my doctor doesn’t take me seriously?

If you get thrush four or more times in one year, this is ‘recurrent thrush’. So if it’s making your life a living hell it’s probably best to get a check-up to rule out any medical problems, such as diabetes, glandular fever, weakened immune system etc. “Any condition that weakens your immune system can cause thrush,” says Lynn.

“Go to the GUM clinic and get a second opinion if your doctor’s not taking you seriously, that’s what they’re there for.”

What can I do to prevent it?

Avoiding the triggers but also limit your stress levels and get enough rest. When it comes to sex, don’t be shy with the lube.

Photo of itchy girl by Shutterstock

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015