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Conditions that mimic vaginal thrush

The itching, irritation and swelling of the vagina because of vaginal thrush is common, but these symptoms may have other causes.

Vaginal thrush is caused by a yeast infection, and medical advice should be sought when symptoms appear for the first time in case it is actually not thrush but a sexually transmitted infection.

For women who've had thrush before, over the counter treatments can be effective.

However, if the thrush keeps coming back, or doesn’t clear up after treatment, seek medical advice.

What other conditions can mimic a yeast infection?

Yeast infection symptoms, such as vaginal itching, burning and occasional vaginal discharge, can also be caused by STIs and other vaginal infections. That is why doctors recommend, particularly to first-time sufferers, a visit to the clinic to make sure your symptoms are not caused by something more serious. A doctor can diagnose vaginal thrush by taking a few cells from your vagina with a swab and looking at them under a microscope.

Other causes of vaginal itching, burning, and discharge which are not vaginal thrush include:

  • Bacterial vaginosis. This infection is caused by an overgrowth of various bacteria which live in the vagina. The classic signs are vaginal discharge with a strong, fishy-smelling odour and pain while urinating.
  • Trichomoniasis. This infection is caused by a parasite. It is usually spread through sex. Along with vaginal itching, burning and an unpleasant-smelling green frothy discharge, common symptoms include redness and swelling of the labia. You may also suffer pain when urinating.
  • STIs. Several STIs such as herpes and gonorrhoea, can mimic symptoms of vaginal thrush. These STIs also can cause painful sexual intercourse, redness or swelling of the labia.
  • Infection in the cervix. An infection in the cervix can trigger the symptoms of burning or discharge during urination or sexual intercourse.
  • Threadworms. These parasites can cause a vaginal infection, especially in young girls.
  • A tampon. An old tampon left in the vagina too long can cause burning, discharge or irritation.

All of these conditions need prompt medical attention so that they can be diagnosed and treated.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on March 31, 2014

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