Thrush is a common yeast infection that affects men and women. It’s usually harmless but it can be uncomfortable and keep coming back. It isn’t classed as a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Check if you have thrush
Thrush symptoms in women
- white discharge (like cottage cheese), which doesn’t usually smell
- itching and irritation around the vagina
- soreness and stinging during sex or when you pee
If you’re unsure it’s thrush check vaginal discharge.
Thrush symptoms in men
- irritation, burning and redness around the head of the penis and under the foreskin
- a white discharge (like cottage cheese)
- an unpleasant smell
- difficulty pulling back the foreskin
Thrush can affect other areas of skin, such as the armpits, groin and between the fingers. This usually causes a red, itchy or painful rash that scales over with white or yellow discharge. The rash may not be so obvious on darker skin.
Sometimes thrush causes no symptoms at all.
See a GP or go to a sexual health clinic if:
- you have the symptoms of thrush for the first time
- you’re under 16 or over 60
- your thrush keeps coming back (more than twice in 6 months)
- treatment hasn’t worked
- you’re pregnant or breastfeeding
- you have thrush and a weakened immune system – for example, because of diabetes, HIV or chemotherapy
You’ll often need antifungal medicine to get rid of thrush. This can be a tablet you take, a tablet you insert into your vagina (pessary) or a cream to relieve the irritation.
Thrush should clear up within a week, after 1 dose of medicine or using the cream daily.
You don’t need to treat partners, unless they have symptoms.
You might need to take treatment for longer (for up to 6 months) if you keep getting thrush (you get it more than twice in 6 months).
Your GP or sexual health clinic can help identify if something is causing your thrush, such as your period or sex. They’ll recommend how often you should use treatment.
A pharmacist can help with thrush
You can buy antifungal medicine from pharmacies if you’ve had thrush diagnosed in the past and you know the symptoms.
A pharmacist can recommend the best treatment for you. Ask if they have a private area to talk if you’re embarrassed.
You shouldn’t use antifungal medicine more than twice in 6 months without speaking to a pharmacist or doctor.
Things you can do yourself to ease discomfort and prevent thrush returning
What causes thrush
Thrush isn’t classed as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) but it can be triggered by sex and sometimes passed on through sex.
Thrush is caused by a fungus called candida that is normally harmless. Thrush tends to grow in warm, moist conditions and develops if the balance of bacteria changes.
This can happen if:
- your skin is irritated or damaged
- you’re taking antibiotics
- you have poorly controlled diabetes
- you have a weakened immune system, for example because of HIV or chemotherapy
- you’ve been through the menopause
- you’re pregnant