Everything you may need to know about thrush 

Help ditch that itch
Q. ‘I’ve got thrush – what’s the best way of dealing with it?’
The pharmacist
Scot Taylor, Boots pharmacist, says:

‘Poor you. Thrush is a common yeast infection, which three out of four women will get at some time in their lives. It’s usually harmless, but the symptoms can be uncomfortable. It’s characterised by a white discharge (usually odourless, with a cottage cheese-like texture) and itching and irritation around the vagina, as well as soreness and stinging during sex and urination. It can be confused with bacterial vaginosis (BV), another common vaginal infection, which may cause a watery discharge, sometimes with a strong fishy smell. So if this is the first time you’ve had symptoms or you’re unsure what it is, see your GP for a diagnosis*. If you do have thrush, it can usually be treated with an antifungal medicine from your pharmacy. These are available in capsule form to swallow, or as a pessary or internal cream that you insert into the vagina. A suitable antifungal external cream can help relieve itching. Speak to your pharmacist about appropriate products. To ease discomfort and help prevent a recurrence, swap soaps and shower gels for water and emollient creams around the vulva area, take showers instead of baths, ensure you dry yourself completely after washing, and wear cotton underwear. Sex can be painful if you have thrush, so you might want to abstain; otherwise, use a condom to help ensure you don’t pass it on to your partner. The infection usually clears up within a week of treatment, but if it doesn’t, or it recurs more than twice in six months, see your GP.’

The gynaecologist
Dr Anne Henderson**, says:

‘Thrush occurs when candida – a yeast-like fungus that all women have in their vaginas – grows out of control. There are three main reasons this happens. It can be a side-effect of taking antibiotics, which can get rid of the “good” bacteria in the vagina. Hormonal changes – during pregnancy and pre-period, for example – may upset the delicate balance of vaginal flora. Or a weakened immune system, caused by anything from chronic stress to flu, can make your body less able to control candida growth. If you have thrush, you may find that sanitary products made with bleach-free organic cotton – or a Mooncup – are kinder to inflamed skin. In my opinion, the best treatment is an overnight vaginal pessary, which may clear it up in one dose. I also recommend trying a pH-balancing vaginal gel containing both lactic acid and glycogen. This encourages the growth of lactobacillus (a protective bacterium) and restores the vagina’s natural pH, so can be helpful if you suffer from recurring thrush. If you’re prone to repeated bouts – and the causes above don’t apply – it’s possible that your partner has got it and is re-infecting you, so get them checked out. Also, be aware of your sugar intake: high blood sugar can encourage candida growth, so try cutting back. Always get recurring thrush looked at by your GP, too – it can sometimes be a sign of diabetes, so it’s important to rule that out.’

*You should also see your GP if you’re under 16 or over 60, you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or you have a weakened immune system (because of diabetes, HIV or chemotherapy, for example). **