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Vaginal thrush

Vaginal thrush is a common yeast infection that affects most women at some point. Thrush isn't usually anything to worry about in most cases, but it may be unpleasant and uncomfortable. Thrush can usually be treated with medication available from pharmacies.

Symptoms 

Typical symptoms of vaginal thrush include:

  • itching and soreness around the entrance of the vagina
  • vaginal discharge - this is usually odourless and may be thick and white or thin and watery
  • pain during sex, which may make you worry about having sex
  • a stinging sensation when peeing
  • sometimes the skin around the vagina can be red, swollen or cracked

Testing and treatment

You can usually treat mild thrush without prescription medication from your local pharmacy.

The main types of treatment are:

  • pessaries - a special pill that you insert into your vagina using a special applicator
  • intravaginal creams - these are also placed into the vagina using an applicator
  • capsules - these are swallowed and may be more convenient to use than pessaries or intravaginal cream

The symptoms will usually clear up within a week or two. However, for some women, vaginal thrush can be difficult to treat and keeps coming back.

It's a good idea to make an appointment at one of our clinics if:

  • you have thrush for the first time
  • you're under the age of 16 or over 60
  • symptoms are unusual, such as coloured or smelly discharge
  • sores appear on the skin around your vagina 
  • you have abnormal vaginal bleeding or pain in your lower tummy
  • you've had two episodes of thrush within the last six months
  • you've reacted badly to antifungal treatment in the past or it didn't work
  • you or your partner have previously had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and you think it might have returned
  • symptoms don't improve after 7-14 days of treatment

Thrush isn't usually anything to worry about in these cases, but we may want to take a swab from your vagina to confirm the diagnosis and/or carry out tests to check for any underlying cause. Sores can also be a sign of genital herpes. The nurse or doctor may take samples to decide whether it is possible to provide treatment there and then.

If you think you need to be seen at our clinic, you should:

 *Our walk-in and wait clinics offer limited slots and operate on a first come first served basis. When clinics are at full capacity, patients asking to be seen will be triaged and those who fit our urgent criteria will be a priority. At busy times we may need to signpost non-urgent cases to other clinics or recommend patients make an appointment for an alternative day or suggest a return visit.

Prevention

You can help prevent thrush by:

  • using water and an emollient (moisturiser) soap substitute to clean the skin around your vagina, but avoid cleaning this area more than once a day
  • applying a greasier moisturiser to the skin around your vagina several times a day to protect it (but be aware that these moisturisers can weaken condoms)
  • avoiding potential irritants in perfumed soaps, shower gels, vaginal deodorants, wipes and douches
  • avoiding wearing tight-fitting underwear or tights - some women find that special silk underwear designed for people with eczema and thrush is helpful
  • ensuring your blood sugar level is kept under control, if you have diabetes

More information

Visit NHS Choices - vaginal thrush

 Download Family Planning Association’s Looking after your sexual health leaflet - thrush and bacterial vaginosis