How to treat thrush
Thrush isn't usually serious but it can be really uncomfortable, which is why it's important to treat it properly and help stop the infection from coming back. That means clearing the infection on the inside as well as treating the symptoms on the outside. The good news is that you can easily and effectively treat with over the counter (OTC) products which come in the following forms:
- Antifungal Creams - administered directly to the outside of the vagina to relieve itching
- Pessaries – tablet inserted into the vagina
- Oral Pills – tablets taken by the mouth which will treat the internal infection (only available with prescription)
Antifungal creams and pessaries work directly at the site of the infection either in the vagina or on the outer lips of the vagina. Pessaries are bullet-shaped tablets which are inserted into the vagina using your fingers or an applicator.
The length of treatment usually lasts one day, three days, six days or 14 days. In a more severe case a more prolonged course of treatment may be necessary. Please ensure that you complete your full course of treatment even if you think your symptoms have been cured. It is recommended that you talk to your GP or Pharmacist regarding your best treatment path.
Recurrent thrush (Vulvovaginal candidiasis), is defined as four or more episodes of infection in a year and affects about 5% of healthy women. Frequently it is not possible to identify the factors triggering infections or predisposing the individual to frequent recurrence. However sometimes a relapse, due to incomplete eradication of thrush during treatment, can be confused with a recurrence. If you are not sure you should consult your GP and discuss the best treatment path for you.
When to see your doctor
If you recognise the symptoms we've described and you think you might have thrush for the first time, it's important to see your doctor. If the doctor confirms that you have thrush, he or she can advise you on a suitable treatment.
Many women self-diagnose and self-medicate with advice from their pharmacist.
However, there are some circumstances when a woman should see her GP especially if she:
- Is a first-time sufferer whose thrush has not previously been diagnosed by a doctor
- Is younger than 16, or older than 60 years of age
- Has had at least two episodes of thrush in the past 6 months but has not consulted her GP about the condition for more than a year
- Has a previous history of sexually transmitted disease or has been exposed to a partner with one
- Is or might be pregnant
- Has odourous vaginal discharge
- Has abnormal or irregular vaginal bleeding or blood-stained discharge
- Has pain in the lower abdomen
- Has experienced an adverse reaction to anti-fungal products
- Has dysuria - pain on urination is less common with thrush, although external dysuria can occur
- Has vulval or vaginal sores, ulcers or blisters. These are more commonly associated with herpes infections
If you are pregnant or think you may be - see your doctor
Pregnant women are up to three times more likely to have yeasts colonizing in the vagina. About a third of pregnant women have yeasts detected and an estimated 60-90% of these women will have symptoms. It is important that you visit your doctor even if you have suffered from thrush before, as your pregnancy may mean that an effective treatment you have used in the past may in fact be unsuitable now. That's why it's so important to know which treatments are suitable for you.
Tell your pharmacist or your doctor if:
- you are under 16 or over 60
- thrush keeps returning
- you have other symptoms
- you suffer from diabetes
- you are, or think you may be, pregnant or you are breastfeeding
Thrush Facts or Fallacies
Oral Contraceptives can cause thrush
The evidence that oral contraceptives can increase the risk of developing thrush is contradictory. Current low-dose contraceptives do not appear to be associated with thrush.