It usually affects women, but men can also be affected, and it may be passed from one to another by sexual contact.

Thrush is very common and at least three out of four women will experience thrush at some point in their lives.


A weak immune system can encourage the fungus, as can the contraceptive pill, pregnancy, diabetes, and wearing tight synthetic clothing. Although the two are often confused, thrush is quite different from cystitis, which is an inflammation of the inner lining of the bladder and urethra.

Chances of getting thrush are higher if women:

  • Wear lycra shorts, or tight nylon clothes, underwear, or tight jeans
  • Take certain antibiotics
  • Take steroids or immuno-suppressive drugs
  • Use too much vaginal deodorant, perfumed bubble bath, or shower gel
  • Are pregnant
  • Damage the vaginal walls due to vaginal dryness during sexual intercourse or the excessive use of tampons
  • Have sex with someone who has a thrush infection


Both thrush and cystitis can cause the vagina and vulva to be red and sore, and may lead to pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis, and back. But only thrush causes severe vaginal itching and a cheesy-like discharge.

Thrush can produce a painful burning sensation, like cystitis, but only after it has been left untreated for a long time.

To test for thrush, an examination of the genital area is carried out by a doctor or nurse who takes samples using a cotton wool or spongy swab. Women may be given an internal pelvic examination, and a urine sample may be taken. Samples are examined under a microscope to check for infection and may be sent to the laboratory to confirm the diagnosis. Urine may be tested to exclude diabetes.


Thrush infections can be quickly cleared up by antifungal medicines, which may be in the form of a tablet or a pessary and cream.

Both treatments are equally effective, and patients can use whichever suits them best. It is advisable they have a check-up after completing treatment to make sure the infection has gone. The symptoms of thrush may go away without treatment, but the genital area can get very sore.

The patient’s partner should be treated too otherwise s/he will reinfect you.


A number of simple measures can help prevent patients getting thrush:

  • Drink lots of water
  • Do not douche or clean inside the vagina
  • Avoid vaginal deodorants, bubble baths, or perfumed soaps and shower gels
  • Try not to wear nylon underwear, tights, or tight-fitting trousers
  • Change to a non-biological washing powder
  • Take care with genital hygiene and wipe from ‘front to back’
  • Use pads and panty liners rather than tampons
  • Avoid intercourse until all symptoms have disappeared as this will encourage the lining of the vagina to heal

Thrush is a fairly harmless, though irritating condition. Occasionally symptoms can be a sign of a more serious disorder. Patients should see their GP if they are having thrush for the first time, or if they have a fever, have blood in their urine, are pregnant, or experiencing vomiting. Also bear in mind that thrush is more likely if patients have diabetes. Using condoms during sex can reduce patients’ risk of getting or passing on sexually transmitted infections.