Thrush

What is it?

Thrush is a very common condition caused by yeast which lives harmlessly in the female vagina. Occasionally the yeast overgrows, and can cause signs and symptoms.

How do I catch it?

Though thrush can be passed on during sex, it is not a sexually transmitted infection as such, and it can affect people even when they do not have sex.

Thrush is more common during pregnancy and in people with diabetes, or HIV. It can also develop when taking certain antibiotics, or chemotherapy treatments that affect the immune system. Wearing tight clothing can also enable thrush to develop.

Thrush can be made worse by products that may cause irritation of the vagina, such as vaginal deodorant or bubble bath.

Symptoms

Women might notice:

  • itching, soreness and redness around the vulva, vagina and anus
  • vaginal discharge may become very thick, like cottage cheese
  • urinating and having sex can be painful

Men might notice:

  • irritation, burning or itching under the foreskin or around the tip of the penis
  • redness of the genital skin or a spotty rash on the head of the penis
  • a discharge under the foreskin, or swelling

Testing

Thrush is often diagnosed by how it looks, but it can also be tested for by taking swabs from the affected area.

Treatment

Thrush can clear on its own, especially in people who don't have any symptoms.

You can buy anti-fungal cream and pessaries (specially shaped pills which are inserted into the vagina) from a pharmacist, who will advise you on how to use these treatments. However, if the symptoms do not resolve with these simple measures, you should see your GP or come to a sexual health clinic for a check up.

Find a clinic

While thrush isn't considered to be a sexually transmitted infection, it can be passed on during sex.

How to avoid STIs

See the FPA website for a range of downloadable leaflets on contraception and sexually transmitted infections.

View FPA leaflets

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) website also features a range of downloadable leaflets on STIs.

View BASHH leaflets