What is it?
Thrush is usually caused by a type of fungus called Candida albicans. It is also called candidiasis. Candida lives naturally in the body, but if it overgrows, it causes thrush. Vaginal thrush is extremely common. Candida can be found in the vagina in a high proportion of women of childbearing age, many of whom will have no symptoms.
It is thought that changes in host environment allow the organism to produce symptoms. Predisposing factors include pregnancy, diabetes and the use of antibiotics and corticosteroids. Reduced immunity such as in HIV/AIDS can result in more widespread infection.
What are the symptoms?
An itchy vulva is the dominant symptom. A watery or thick white vaginal discharge is present in varying degrees. Many women have only one or occasional isolated episodes. In a small percentage of healthy women, vaginal thrush can occur about four times in a year.
A few men get a burning irritation on their penis after sex with a woman who has thrush. This usually goes away on its own or with application of an anti-fungal cream.
What treatments work?
Candida grows best in warm, moist conditions. So, wearing loose, cotton underclothes and stockings rather than tights may help prevent it from overgrowing.
Some drugs for thrush come as a cream or a pessary (a tablet put in the vagina). Others are taken orally, and both work as equally well. The doctor will prescribe these medicines and how to use them. Fluconazole tablets can clear up thrush with one dose, but isn’t safe during pregnancy.
Some women try natural remedies for thrush, including tea tree oil, garlic, and yoghurt. Inform your doctor before you take any herbal medicine.
What will happen to me?
Thrush usually clears up with treatment, even without treatment. It doesn’t harm the baby in the womb.