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Thrush - Rightangled

What is Thrush?

Thrush, also known as candidiasis, is a common fungal infection caused by the overgrowth of Candida yeast, most commonly Candida albicans. It can affect various parts of the body, but it often occurs in the mouth (oral thrush) and in the genital area (genital thrush). Thrush is characterized by uncomfortable symptoms such as itching, burning, and white patches on affected areas. Understanding the causes, diagnosis, available treatments, and prevention strategies is crucial for effectively managing thrush and promoting overall well-being.

Causes

Thrush occurs when there is an imbalance in the body's natural microbial environment, allowing Candida yeast to grow excessively. Factors that can contribute to this imbalance include:
Antibiotics: The use of antibiotics can disrupt the balance of bacteria and yeast in the body, creating an environment conducive to Candida overgrowth.
Weakened Immune System: Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or undergoing chemotherapy, are more susceptible to thrush.
Poor Oral Hygiene: In oral thrush, poor oral hygiene can lead to the accumulation of yeast in the mouth and throat.
Hormonal Changes: Hormonal changes during pregnancy or due to hormonal therapies can increase the risk of genital thrush.
Wearing Tight or Wet Clothing: Moist and warm environments, such as wet or tight clothing, can create conditions suitable for yeast growth in the genital area.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing thrush involves a healthcare provider's evaluation and may include:
Visual Examination: For oral thrush, a healthcare provider can visually inspect the mouth for white patches or lesions. For genital thrush, a pelvic examination may be conducted.
Microscopic Examination: A sample of affected tissue or discharge may be examined under a microscope to confirm the presence of Candida yeast.
Culture Test: A sample can be cultured to identify the specific type of Candida yeast causing the infection.

Treatments

Treatment options for thrush depend on the affected area and the severity of the infection. Commonly used approaches include:
Antifungal Medications: Antifungal medications, available in various forms such as creams, ointments, oral tablets, and lozenges, are used to directly target and eliminate Candida yeast.
Oral Hygiene: Proper oral hygiene, including brushing teeth and using mouthwash, can help manage oral thrush. For infants, sterilizing pacifiers and bottle nipples is important.
Genital Hygiene: Keeping the genital area clean and dry can help prevent and manage genital thrush. Avoid using scented products or tight-fitting underwear.

Prevention

Preventing thrush involves maintaining a healthy microbial balance and adopting certain habits to reduce the risk of Candida overgrowth:
Good Hygiene: Maintain proper hygiene practices for oral and genital areas. Brush teeth regularly, use fluoride toothpaste, and avoid sharing toothbrushes.
Balanced Diet: A balanced diet rich in nutrients supports a healthy immune system and may help prevent thrush.
Limit Antibiotic Use: Use antibiotics only as prescribed by a healthcare provider, and discuss potential side effects, including the risk of yeast overgrowth.
Manage Chronic Conditions: Properly manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS, to reduce the risk of thrush.
Avoid Irritants: Avoid using irritants such as scented products, douches, and harsh soaps in the genital area.

Further info

Read more about Thrush on NHS website, following the link below:

https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/thrush/

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FAQs

Can men get thrush?

Yes, men can also develop thrush, although it is more commonly associated with women. Genital thrush can affect men, leading to symptoms such as itching, redness, and discomfort in the genital area. It can be transmitted through sexual activity, but it can also occur independently. If you suspect you have thrush, it's advisable to consult a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Can thrush be transmitted through sexual contact?

Yes, thrush can be transmitted through sexual contact, especially in cases of genital thrush. It is considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in some instances. Both partners may need treatment if one partner has thrush to prevent reinfection. Practicing safe sex, maintaining good hygiene, and seeking timely medical attention can help prevent the transmission and recurrence of thrush.

Are there risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing thrush?

Certain factors can increase the risk of developing thrush. These include:
Weakened immune system
Diabetes
Hormonal changes (such as during pregnancy)
Use of antibiotics or corticosteroids
Poor oral or genital hygiene
Wearing damp or tight-fitting clothing
Having certain chronic conditions
If you have one or more of these risk factors, it's important to be vigilant about practicing good hygiene and seeking prompt medical attention if you experience symptoms of thrush.

Can I treat thrush with over-the-counter medications?

Over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal medications are available for treating mild cases of thrush. However, it's important to note that self-diagnosis and self-treatment may not always be accurate or effective. If you suspect you have thrush, it's recommended to consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis before using any OTC medications. A healthcare provider can help determine the appropriate treatment and ensure that the infection is properly managed.

Medically reviewed & approved

This page was medically reviewed by Dr Sohaib Imtiaz (clinical lead) |

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