Thrush or Candiasis
Please note that some of the language in this article is sexually explicit.
Thrush is yeast which belongs to the fungus family. This fungus is found naturally occurring on the body in small controlled numbers. Trouble occurs when the natural balance of the yeast is altered; bacteria in your body usually keep the yeast numbers in check and if it does not, the condition of candidiasis arise. Thrush thrives in warm moist areas and can be found in the intestines, mouth and the groin area.
Thrush is not strictly speaking an STI (sexually transmitted infection) as we all are carrying the yeast in naturally occurring numbers on our bodies and it can occur for many other reasons. However it can be transferred whilst having sexual intercourse with your partner as the yeast levels passed on can be raised. Men are more susceptible of contracting thrush from a woman than passing it to her.
Women are far more prone to contracting Thrush than men, and most women have had a least one episode of this condition in their lifetime. Some women are in the unfortunate position of having recurrent Thrush which can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. The itching can be so intense that it is difficult to resist scratching; this only makes the problem worse making the skin very raw.
The Ph in the vagina is normally 3.8 to 4.5 which is an acidic environment; this level is usually self maintaining if you are in good health. The use of bubble baths, spermicidal creams, douching, taking antibiotics and perfumed soaps and deodorants can easily upset the balance causing the symptoms of thrush. Conditions such as diabetes can affect the vagina due to raised sugar levels and often this happens in pregnancy too due to all the hormonal changes.
- Inflammation itching and irritation of the head of the penis also known as Balanitis
- Discomfort in retracting the foreskin
- Small spots around the head of the penis
- Smegma under the foreskin which looks like cottage cheese and smells yeasty may be present
Occasionally discomfort when passing urine
- Intense itching around the vulva
- Pain and swelling
- Cracks (fissures) in the skin
- A thick white discharge often describes as cottage cheese, with a yeasty smell
- Pain when urinating
You local Doctor or Gum clinic can diagnose this condition after an examination of the genital area. Woman may have a high vaginal swab taken while men may have a swab taken around the tip of the penis or under the foreskin. This sample will be examined in the laboratory under a microscope and you will be informed of the results.
The treatment for thrush is an anti-fungal medication; it can come in different forms:
Tablet form- This is taken orally and acts from the inside of the body restoring the balance. When thrush keeps returning, it may be an indication that yeast has occupied the intestines.
Pessary- This medication which is bullet shaped is inserted high in to the vagina with your finger. It is advised to do this just before going to bed at night and to wear pants with a panty liner as when the pessary melts in the vagina it will leak out.
Cream – This medication is commonly used externally and is soothing to the red and inflamed outer genital regions. With some forms of cream these can be used internally and are delivered high into the vagina by the use of an applicator.
These medications can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacy but if you visit your GP or STI clinic they will be able to give you a prescription which will be cheaper or free and at the same time the clinic will be keeping an accurate record of the number of times you have suffered.
There are a variety of products on the market ranging from tea tree oil to yoghurt, all of which many women have found works for them. If conventional medicine is not the answer for you then it may be worth looking into the alternatives. It is worth noting that Dr Pirotta, a Melbourne GP and PhD student has proven that Lactobacillus acidophilus, a key bacterium in yoghurt, was not effective in the prevention of thrush, her findings were published in the British Medical Journal in 2004.
This is fortunately not that common although the women who suffer from this are constantly aware of the condition. Walking, sitting and passing urine become constantly painful experiences, it can be quite psychologically damaging as it affects all aspects of day to day living. Treatment will be discussed and often a six month course of antifungal topical (cream for the skin) and oral tablets will be commenced with a review after the treatment. Occasionally recurrent Thrush can be an indicator for diabetes therefore it is important that if you are a long term sufferer that your health care provider is aware of the frequency of your attacks.
Antibiotics and Thrush:
Antibiotics are very efficient at destroying bacteria but not yeast; and unfortunately they are unable to tell the good guys from the bad. Therefore the ones that are useful in keeping the candida under control are wiped out too allowing the yeast to run rampant. Therefore if you go to your doctor and they give you antibiotics make sure you remember to ask for antifungal treatment at the same time, that way you won’t have to suffer.
Menstrual periods and Thrush:
The menstrual cycle has a lot to answer for not only does it play around with you emotionally, it can disrupt the balance within the vagina and quite often this can cause thrush just before your period or just after or even at the same time! Tampons and sanitary towels also play their part creating a warm moist environment for the yeast to flourish in. Often an antifungal cream is enough to ward off the external itching symptoms and the vagina soon restores the natural balance.
- Do not douche the vagina this upsets the ph and encourages thrush
- If possible wear cotton underwear
- Avoid tight nylon underwear or trousers
- Do not leave tampons in place for long periods of time- i.e. not overnight
- Toilet hygiene wipe from front to back
- Wash daily but do not use highly perfumed products
- Eat a well balanced diet and exercise regularly