The fun stuff
NSW Government

It can often make women feel embarrassed, miserable and even dirty. But thrush, also called Candidiasis, is more common than you think!

It happens in around 50% of women at least once in their lifetime.

What is it?

Thrush is an overgrowth of naturally occurring yeast in the vagina called candida.  Yeasts are always present in the vagina but exist in balance with healthy bacteria.  When this balance is disrupted, yeast can flourish and cause the classic symptoms of a clumpy white discharge, vaginal itch and irritation.

What can disrupt the natural balance of yeast?

  • Antibiotics
  • Douching (internal “feminine washes”)
  • Sex
  • High dose oestrogen contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Immune system impairment

How do I know if I have thrush?

The most common symptoms that you might experience include:

  • Itching, burning, or soreness around the vulva (female genital area) and vagina
  • A white clumpy cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge

Can men get thrush? 

Yes, men can get thrush. Symptoms usually present as splotchy red spots on the head of the penis and under the foreskin, which may be sore and itchy.

How can thrush be treated? 

Treatment of thrush can either be an oral tablet, cream that’s applied directly to the vulva and vaginal area, or a pessary which is a tablet you insert into the vagina before going to bed. These can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy or a doctor can prescribe one, or a combination, of these treatments.

Is thrush an STI?

Thrush isn’t considered an STI because yeast is naturally occurring in the vagina and you can get thrush even without being sexually active.  However, contact with semen during sex can sometimes disrupt the natural environment in the vagina, triggering thrush.  Using condoms can prevent this effect. Some couples may find that they seem to pass the symptoms back and forth and in those cases, getting treatment at the same time can be a good idea.

How can I prevent thrush?

There are lots of tips to prevent thrush and keep your vulva and vaginal area healthy.

  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing that will trap in heat and moisture and make thrush more likely to occur. Instead, wear breathable cotton underwear, minimise wearing stockings, and change out of wet swimmers as soon as you can.
  • Also avoid douching, bubble baths, and perfume near your vagina. Use only water or a fragrance-free, non-soap cleanser to wash around the vulva, never inside the vagina.
  • If you notice that thrush symptoms appear after sex or have become recurrent since starting a new relationship, condom use may help.

What if I keep getting thrush?

If your symptoms don’t respond to over the counter treatments see your doctor to make sure you have the diagnosis right.  A simple vaginal swab can tell if you have thrush or another type of infection.

Some women may be prone to recurrent thrush.  There are various strategies and treatment regimes that can help, so talk to your doctor about what’s happening for you.

If you have any concerns or just want a bit more info, ring 1800 451 624 between 9:00am and 5:30pm Monday to Friday to talk to a sexual health nurse. It’s confidential and free if you call from a landline.