Thrush: Symptoms, Treatment and Causes

What Is Thrush?

Thrush is a common yeast infection that affects men and women. It’s usually harmless but it can be uncomfortable and keep returning. It is not categorised as a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

What does thrush look like?

Thrush symptoms in women

·      White vaginal discharge (often like cottage cheese), which does not usually smell

·      Itching and irritation around the vagina

·      Soreness and stinging during sex or when you pee

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 in other areas

Thrush can affect other areas of the skin, such as the armpits, the 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

·      Thrush keeps coming back (more than 4 times in 12 months)

·      Treatment has not worked

·      You’re pregnant or breastfeeding

·      You have thrush and a weakened immune system – for example, because of diabetes, HIV or chemotherapy

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Thrush treatment

You’ll usually 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.

How long does thrush last?

Thrush should clear up within 7 to 14 days of starting treatment.

You do not need to treat partners unless they have symptoms.

Recurring thrush

You might need to take treatment for longer (for up to 6 months) if thrush keeps returning (you get it more than 4 times in 12 months).

A 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.

You should not use antifungal medicine more than twice in 6 months without speaking to a pharmacist or doctor first.

Things you can do yourself to ease discomfort and prevent thrush returning


·      Use water and emollient (like E45 cream) instead of soap to wash the affected area

·      Dry properly after washing

·      Wear cotton underwear

·      Avoid sex if sex is uncomfortable, until thrush has cleared up


·      Do not use soaps or shower gels

·      Do not use deodorants on your vagina or penis

·      Do not wear tight underwear or tights