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Vaginal thrush (also called vaginal candidiasis or monilia) is a common infection caused by overgrown yeast. There are many treatments available to relieve thrush symptoms.
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Risk Factors of Vulvovaginal Candidiasis among Women of Reproductive Age in Xi’an: A Cross-Sectional Study. BioMed Research International, 2018, pp.1–8.
Global burden of recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis: a systematic review. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 18(11), pp.e339–e347.
Vaginal thrush is an infection that occurs because of an increase of the yeast fungus known as Candida albicans. Our bodies have friendly bacteria that help us in different ways, for example, to digest food. But if they grow too much they can be harmful.
Candida albicans belongs to a fungi family that is normally found on the skin, in the bowel and vaginal area. Fungi normally grow in warm and moist environments like the vagina. Healthy vaginas will contain a mix of bacteria and some yeast cells. However, if quantities of this fungus increase it can lead to an infection and symptoms can become worse.
The fungal infection can cause symptoms such as irritation, discharge and intense itchiness around the vagina and the vulva. However, vaginal thrush isn’t known to cause any further long-term health issues.
Vaginal thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can develop after vaginal intercourse, but it’s extremely common for it to be passed on during sex. It’s caused by an overgrowth of the yeast ‘candida albicans’, which is normally found on the genital skin. Typical causes can include taking antibiotics, using certain soaps, and wearing tight-fitting clothing.
Vaginal thrush can affect women at any point in their lives. It’s a common infection, and around 70 to 75% of women of childbearing age will have vaginal thrush at some point. Although in most cases there’s no definitive reason as to why vaginal thrush occurs, there are certain factors that can lead to symptoms developing. When the natural defences in the vagina are altered, it can result in an infection. This can happen with women who suffer from certain health conditions.
Women who are more vulnerable to vaginal thrush, also known as candidiasis or monilia, include pregnant women, people who are taking antibiotic medication, people who suffer from diabetes, and people who have a weaker immune system (for example, if you’re receiving chemotherapy). All women are also prone to recurring episodes of vaginal thrush. In this case, clinicians will offer alternative treatments for recurrent yeast infections.
Vaginal thrush is a common health condition that can develop at any time. This type of yeast infection occurs with millions of women globally, and research has shown that it’s expected to continue. It affects 372 million women at some point in their lifetime. Recurrent vaginal thrush affects between 103 million and 172 million women per year across the world. The age group that is most commonly affected is 25 to 34 year olds.
It’s believed that there could be a relationship between vaginal thrush and oestrogen, so you can be more vulnerable to thrush during your reproductive years, between starting your period and starting the menopause. Hormone changes are also seen during pregnancy, so you may be susceptible at this time too. There are also suggestions that hormone and contraceptive pills could trigger vaginal thrush, but this hasn’t been confirmed.
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There’s no known, specific cause for vaginal thrush. It occurs when the number of natural fungi in the body increase. One of these is Candida albicans, which is found in the vagina and is harmless in small quantities. These fungi support the body and help it function properly to keep yeast controlled. But different triggers and health conditions can alter quantities of these natural defences, and go against your body’s necessary balance. This leads to vaginal thrush symptoms arising.
Candida albicans is a common fungus that leads to yeast infections. It belongs to the candida fungus family. Other types of fungus within this family can lead to more complicated infections which require more aggressive treatment.
The different symptoms you can experience if you have vaginal thrush include:
Symptoms of vaginal thrush are usually minor and will heal by themselves. However, you may find that symptoms are uncomfortable, annoying and don’t let you carry out your usual daily activities. In this case, you should log in to your account and send our clinician a message. They may advise you to try an alternative treatment.
If the vaginal thrush you’re experiencing is severe you’ll have symptoms that include:
If you have any of the following symptoms then it might be that you don’t have vaginal thrush:
Vaginal thrush symptoms can be uncomfortable and stressful, particularly if you have recurring thrush. If vaginal thrush isn’t treated for a long time, this could lead to risks with other parts of the body. Some symptoms that are similar to vaginal thrush could indicate other issues. For example, skin rashes near the vagina might be due to other infections.
There can also be an increased risk of you getting an STD when you have a yeast infection. Yeast infections aren’t directly associated with the development of STDs, but the lesions (small cuts) made by scratching, and the microscopic tears in the affected skin, could allow some bacteria or viruses that cause STDs to enter the body more easily.
But it’s unlikely that vaginal thrush will lead to any serious health problems. Vaginal thrush won’t damage your vagina or your uterus, and it won’t hurt your baby if you’re pregnant.
If you have recurring vaginal thrush that is making you upset, depressed, or anxious, or if it’s affecting normal activities such as your sex life, then it’s important to talk to our clinician They can advise you on how to deal with your situation and what treatments are available.
Most vaginal thrush medications contain the ingredients fluconazole, clotrimazole or miconazole nitrate. Medication works to reduce the number of yeasts and so control symptoms. There are several options for treatment including topical medications, antifungal creams and tablets that are inserted into your vagina, or oral tablets.
These options can be purchased without a prescription in pharmacies, but you’ll still need to speak to a pharmacist prescriber so that they can make sure these medications are safe for you to use.
The vaginal thrush treatment that best suits you will depend on your condition, symptoms and health needs. Certain treatments may be better or worse depending on your circumstances. For example, oral tablets aren’t recommended for pregnant women and they tend to be more expensive. It may be that your vaginal thrush only lasts for a few days, and so you only need to take a mild treatment. Our clinical team can help you to decide which medications will suit you best.
Vaginal thrush usually requires some form of treatment, depending on your symptoms. So it’s best to speak to a clinician in the first instance, so they can decide on the most appropriate treatment for you.
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