What Is Thrush?

Thrush, or Candidaisis, is a fungal infection caused by the fungus Candida (otherwise known as yeast). Thrush is commonly associated with the female genitals, but in fact thrush is a much more common problem and can affect both men and women. Thrush can also affect different areas of the body aside from the genitals, including the skin.

Candida, or yeast, normally exists in the body naturally, and poses no problem or threat to our health. It is when the yeast is triggered to overgrow that it can pose a problem and you may start to notice common symptoms of a thrush infection. For example, using certain soaps to clean yourself can cause the yeast to overgrow.

Around 20% of women carry candida in their vaginas, and therefore may experience itchiness or discomfort if the yeast starts to overgrow. Thrush is a common infection for many women, and it can be straightforward to find treatment. Men can also develop an infection of their penis, which displays itself as red patches and a burning sensation when passing urine.

Thrush can also develop in other areas of the body. Oral thrush is when the yeast overgrows in the linings of the mouth, causing white lesions to be displayed. This can develop under your tongue or down the back of your throat as well as on the lining of your cheeks, and can be painful. Oral thrush is particularly common in babies and young children, as well as older adults and those who have a compromised immune system. Oral thrush can also develop in those who have diabetes, those wearing dentures, and those with HIV and AIDS.

Mothers whose babies have developed a thrush infection in their cheek linings or throat may experience thrush themselves on their breasts, passed onto them by their child if they are breastfeeding. This can cause the nipples to become sore and cracked, and a burning sensation and pain around the breasts.

Finally, thrush can develop in areas of the body where the skin folds over itself. This is particularly common in those who are overweight. Common sites of infection include the groin, the armpits, and the skin between fingers.

Thrush can cause many who have the infection discomfort and pain, but it can be easy to treat. Most chemists or doctors will be able to recommend treatment or medicine to combat the infection.

What Are the Symptoms of Thrush?

Thrush is a yeast infection, caused by an overgrowth in yeast, or candida, in various parts of the body. Symptoms vary depending on the location of the infection, and also from the severity. For some, there may be no symptoms, while for others the symptoms may make themselves very apparent.

Vaginal Thrush: Women can develop a thrush infection in their vagina, and can experience various symptoms as a result. The most commonly known symptom is that of an itchiness which can be hard to ignore. This itchiness is commonly experienced in the vulva, the outer part of the vagina. Other symptoms include a burning sensation and soreness around the area of infection. Women may experience pain or discomfort when passing urine, and also when having sexual intercourse. Many women may also find that they experience a white or greyish discharge. More uncommon symptoms include cracked skin, and a swelling up and redness of the vulva area.

Male Thrush: Men can also experience a thrush infection of their penis and genital area. Common symptoms of this infection include itchiness of the penis and genital area, a burning sensation particularly when passing urine, and red sores and swelling around the head of the penis. Men may also find a thick discharge under their foreskin, and may find they have difficulty pulling this back. They may experience pain when having sexual intercourse.

Oral Thrush: Oral thrush, an infection of the cheek linings, tongue and throat, can be experience by many groups of people, including babies, older adults, those wearing dentures, and those with HIV and AIDS. Symptoms of oral thrush include white patches or plaques in the mouth on the cheeks, tongue or throat. These can be easily wiped away but the skin underneath can be red and painful. Suffers may also experience pain in the tongue, soreness of the mouth, cracked corners of the mouth, an unpleasant taste in their mouth and difficulty swallowing. Those wearing dentures may find that their mouths may become sore and red where their dentures have been.

Breastfeeding Thrush: Thrush can often be passed from baby to mother via breastfeeding, and many mothers will develop thrush on their breasts. Symptoms of this include pain in the nipple which does not improve with repositioning of the baby, pain after feeding the baby, an itchiness and soreness of the nipple, redness in appearance, flakiness or small blisters around the nipple, and cracked skin.

Skin Infections: A thrush infection of the skin will often develop in areas where the skin folds over itself. Symptoms of this infection include a red rash which can feel painful. Spots may also form. In more developed case, the infection will produce a thick off white coloured discharge.

If you feel that you are experiencing any of the symptoms of thrush it is a good idea to talk to your doctor. Treatments are simple and can improve any feelings of discomfort, pain or concern you may be feeling. Thrush is usually harmless but in extreme cases or left untreated it can develop into a more serious condition.

The Causes of Thrush

Thrush is a common infection, and there can be many causes behind an infection. Thrush can develop in various places over the body. If you have an infection or are worried that you do, talking to your doctor will help you to find the precise cause of your thrush infection. However, here we provide some of the common causes behind a thrush infection.

Vaginal Thrush: There are various causes behind vaginal thrush. The fungus or yeast that causes the majority of cases is the fungus candida albicans. Other funguses include candida glabrata and candida krusei. Yeast occurs naturally in the body and poses no risk to health. However, at times the yeast can be triggered to overgrow, which then causes a thrush infection. Various factors can cause this extra growth. Antibiotics, for example, has been found to be a risk factor in developing thrush due to their tendency to destroy the good bacteria maintaining a healthy level of yeast in the body as well as the bad. Similarly, pregnant women have an increased risk of developing thrush due to changes in the body’s hormone levels sparking changes in the body’s yeast levels. Those with a compromised or weakened immune system also are at risk of developing the infection as their body is unable to fight or prevent the growth of the infection. Those with HIV and AIDS are particularly at risk. Finally, those with diabetes who are not under a regime of treatment also run the risk of developing the infection.

Other potential causes of vaginal thrush have been suggested, but these remain predicted causes rather than proven. These include using sanitary towels rather than tampons, oral contraceptives, and sexual behaviour which leaves the vulva or vagina scratched.

Male Thrush: Similarly to vaginal thrush, thrush can develop on the penal area of men due to antibiotics which destroy to bacteria maintaining a healthy level of yeast, and a weakening of the immune system caused by diseases such as HIV and AIDS. Male thrush can also be triggered by poor personal hygiene. Ensuring that the penis is fully dried after washing will decrease any chance you have of developing thrush. Using perfumed soap may increase your risk of the infection.

Oral Thrush: There are many potential causes of oral thrush, including a weakened immune system, smoking, an injury in your mouth, and medication reducing the saliva production in your mouth. Those taking Corticosteroids as medication have a greater risk of developing oral thrush due to the medication destroying good bacteria in the mouth and causing it to become more acidic. Those who are elderly or babies, wearing dentures, take antibiotics, are being treated for cancer or who have an iron deficiency all are at great risk of developing oral thrush.

Breastfeeding Thrush: Mothers who breastfeed children who themselves have oral thrush are at greater risk of developing breastfeeding thrush through a transfer from their child to them during feeding.

Skin Infection: Those who are overweight, have diabetes, are on antibiotics, or have a weakened immune system all run the risk of developing skin infections associated with thrush. Crucially it is important to dry skin off thoroughly after washing or sweating as yeast infections flourish in damp situations. Tight clothes can prevent sweat from evaporating from the body, and can put you at risk of developing thrush on your skin.

Treatment of Thrush

Thrush can appear in various forms, including skin infections, genital infections and oral infections. Therefore treatments offered by your doctor will depend which part of the body is infected, as well as how serious the infection is and whether it is a recurrent problem.

Vaginal Thrush: Your doctor may offer you various forms of antifungal treatment. If your infection is mild or moderate, you may find that you are offered a cream to use on the infected area, or oral medication to take. You may even be given intravaginal pessaries to insert into your vagina. Of course, medication poses the risk of side effects, and those listed above are no exception. Oral antifungal medication increases your risk of nausea or vomiting, bloating, wind, headaches and constipation. Intravaginal pessaries cause less side effects but as well as being difficult to use have been found to causes redness, a mild burning feeling and itchiness. Your doctor should discuss the possible side effects with you before you use the treatment. Pregnant women should discuss possible treatments with their doctor before any products at the chemist.

Simple steps at home can be taken to improve or cure your thrush. These include avoiding perfumed soaps and washing with water instead, and wearing natural and loose fitting materials and underwear rather than synthetic and tight fitting clothing.

Male Thrush: As with vaginal thrush, simple steps can be taken at home to improve your levels of comfort. Washing with water rather than perfumed soap, taking showers rather than baths, and wearing loose fitting underwear and clothing rather than tight synthetic materials will all improve your thrush. Your doctor will be likely to recommend an antifungal cream to use on your penis to improve the infection, which may cause a slight burning sensation when applied. More serious cases of thrush may require medication such as Fluconazole, which can be either a cream or a pill. This may cause feelings of nausea, wind, and pain in the abdomen.

Oral Thrush: A variety of antifungal medication is available for those with oral thrush, including rinses, tablets, powders and creams. Those with dentures can apply cream to the infected area. Potential side effects of treatment include feelings of nausea, headaches and indigestion.

Breastfeeding Thrush: Mothers are often advised by doctors to use antifungal creams of their nipples and breast area, varying in strength depending on the severity of the infection. Other simple steps can be taken to improve the infection including washing bras thoroughly, washing the breasts after feeding, ensure you wash your hands thorough after feeding, and ensure that your breasts come into contact with fresh air and sunshine if possible.

Skin Infections: Antifungal creams are easy to apply directly to the area of infection. Those with large areas of infection may be directed towards taking oral medication rather than using creams. Potential side effects include irritation to the skin and feelings of nausea.

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