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What is thrush (candida)?

Most women will experience thrush at least once in their lifetime.

It’s an infection in the vagina that causes itching and soreness, and sometimes has other symptoms, too.

Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of the yeast called Candida albicans.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help prevent it, and you can treat mild cases with over-the-counter medication.

Thrush (candida) is NOT a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Thrush (or candidiasis) is a common infection of the vaginal area. It’s caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans, a yeast that occurs naturally in your bowel. This overgrowth occurs for a number of reasons – ranging from the oral contraceptive pill or antibiotics you may be taking, through to pregnancy or menstruation. It is also more common in diabetics. Thrush can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the mouth.

There are a range of preventative measures you can take to avoid getting thrush, although these aren’t guaranteed. They include:

  • Using soap substitutes instead of perfumed products to clean yourself
  • Wearing loose cotton underwear
  • Wiping your bottom from front to back after going to the toilet

About 75 per cent of women will have vaginal thrush in their lifetime. If you suspect that you have your first case of thrush or you've had repeated cases, it is advisable to see a doctor. They can take a swab to confirm whether you have the condition and to rule out other causes of vaginal symptoms. Otherwise, you can simply visit your pharmacist to get an over-the-counter cream, tablet or vaginal pessary to treat it.

Remember - Thrush (candida) is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Symptoms of thrush (candida)

Some of the symptoms of thrush may include:

  • Itching and burning at the entrance to your vagina
  • Redness or swelling in the area
  • An abnormally thick discharge
  • Stinging when you pass urine
  • Discomfort during sex

Causes and treatment of thrush (candida)

Hormonal changes are often a trigger for thrush, which is why pregnant women or those experiencing changes to their menstrual cycle are often more susceptible. It can also be caused by the antibiotics you’re taking.

The good news is that treating thrush is quite simple. There are a range of over-the-counter medications you can try – including oral tablets, creams and vaginal pessaries.

If you find that your symptoms don’t go away after treating yourself for thrush, you should see your doctor as there are a number of other vaginal conditions that have similar symptoms.

Further information and sources


This article is of a general nature only. You should always seek medical advice if you think you may have the symptoms of thrush or candida.