Vaginal thrush is a common yeast infection that affects most women at some point in their lives, with up to three-quarters of women developing this infection. Thrush can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, but thankfully it is generally very easy to treat with antifungal medications. Here, we’re going to take a look at what causes thrush, how we can prevent it, and how we can treat it.
What is Thrush?
Genital thrush is caused by a fungus called Candida, which naturally occurs on the body and does not usually cause any problems. Whilst, our immune system and beneficial bacteria usually prevent Candida from thriving, it can grow and cause infection under certain circumstances – we’ll talk about this in more detail shortly.
Thrush is not considered to be a sexually transmitted infection and it’s not generally considered to be contagious. Therefore, it’s uncommon for it to be transferred during sex, but sex can trigger a thrush infection. Sex can also prolong symptoms so it’s best to avoid it during treatment and until your symptoms have completely resolved.
What Causes Thrush?
In most cases, there is no obvious reason why the yeast infection has occurred. However, there are some factors that can increase the likelihood of developing a vaginal yeast infection. These include:
- Taking antibiotics
- Hormonal changes e.g. pregnancy, during the menstrual cycle, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), contraceptive pill
- Weakened immune system
What are the most common thrush symptoms that I should look out for?
The most common symptoms of thrush to watch out for include:
- Itchiness or soreness of the skin of the vulva/ vagina
- Redness or swelling of the skin of the vulva/ vagina
- A change in vaginal discharge – discharge may appear thick and white or thin and watery
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Painful sexual intercourse
How can I avoid getting thrush?
If you’re wondering “why do I keep getting thrush?”, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, around 1 in 20 women will experience recurring vaginal thrush, in which the infection returns at least 4 times per year. Luckily, there are a couple of preventative measures that you can take to reduce the risk of developing an infection.
Thrush occurs when the natural pH balance of the vagina is altered. Therefore, it’s a good idea to avoid washing the vaginal area with scented soaps and shower gels as they can upset the healthy balance. Instead, you should use soap substitutes, such as emollient ointment, and warm water to wash the vulva each day.
In the same respect, you should avoid using scented wipes or vaginal deodorants as they too disrupt the natural balance. Whilst it’s normal for vaginal odour to change throughout your menstrual cycle, unpleasant odours can indicate infection. Therefore, if you’re worried or tempted to use perfumed products to mask your vaginal odour, you should see your GP to rule out infection.
Similarly, you should avoid using vaginal douches. The vagina cleans itself by producing natural secretions (discharge). Using a vaginal douche removes these natural secretions and healthy vaginal bacteria, upsetting the balance.
Yeast infections are more likely to occur when taking antibiotic medication. This is due to the medication killing off the beneficial bacteria in the vagina which helps prevent overgrowth of Candida. Taking probiotics or other forms of anti-thrush medication whilst on antibiotics can significantly reduce the risk of infection.
As mentioned above, thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection but sex can be a factor in its occurrence. Friction during sex can sometimes cause minor damage to the vagina/ vulva which can make Candida more likely to thrive. To reduce friction, you can keep the vagina well-lubricated with silicone or water-based lubricants before having penetrative sex.
Thrush tends to develop in warm, moist conditions so your choice of clothing could help prevent infection from developing. Here are some tips:
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes, like tights, for long periods of time.
- Opt for breathable, cotton underwear.
- Do not wear underwear in bed.
How Can We Treat Vaginal Thrush?
Thrush is treated with antifungal medications that work by killing Candida which is causing the infection. Whilst there are over-the-counter medications available, sometimes you may need prescription medication to clear the infection. At Webdoctor.ie, we can arrange prescriptions for three thrush treatments.
These are taken as a once-off dose and because of this, side effects are very uncommon. Occasionally, a second dose at 72 hours is needed.
Topical Thrush Treatment (Cream)
This is a combination cream containing a steroid and an antifungal medication. It helps to soothe irritated and inflamed external skin but will not have any effect on internal symptoms. it should be used 3 times daily for up to one week – this treatment is not appropriate for long-term use. Please be aware, this product can damage latex condoms and diaphragms, making them ineffective at preventing pregnancy and STIs.
Vaginal Tablets (Pessaries)
Pessaries are inserted into the vagina via an applicator as a once-off dose, to help treat any internal symptoms. It contains antifungal medication. Side effects are uncommon but can include localised irritation/burning sensation. Please be aware, this product can damage latex condoms and diaphragms, making them ineffective at preventing pregnancy and STIs.
As with all medications, there are potential side effects. Please ensure that you read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication before you start to use it.
How to Request a Prescription For Thrush Treatment
Requesting a prescription for thrush treatment couldn’t be easier with Webdoctor.ie. Simply fill out a secure and simple questionnaire to describe your symptoms and provide your doctor with a brief medical history. Once your thrush treatment is approved, we will send your prescription directly to an Irish pharmacy of your choice.
If you have any questions about thrush or would like to discuss our thrush treatment in more detail, don’t hesitate to book an online video consultation with one of our doctors. There, we can talk you through the treatment and answer any questions you may have.