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Thrush, vagina - What is thrush?

BMJ Group Medical Reference


Thrush is very common. You get a discharge from your vagina and you may also feel itchy and sore. With treatment, thrush is usually easy to get rid of. But some women find the infection keeps coming back.

We've brought together the best research about thrush and weighed up the evidence about how to treat it. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for you.

Thrush can feel uncomfortable. You get a discharge from your vagina that is usually thick and white (like cottage cheese). You'll probably feel itchy and sore, and the area outside your vagina will probably be affected too.

In most women, thrush is caused by a type of yeast known as Candida albicans.[1][2] Yeast is a type of fungus. Candida is usually harmless and lives naturally in your body. You can have this yeast in your vagina without getting any symptoms.

But sometimes too much of this yeast can grow. This makes your vagina inflamed and causes thrush. The vagina is the most common part of the body for Candida infection. Candida likes warm, moist, airless conditions best. So wearing loose, cotton underclothes and stockings rather than tights may help prevent thrush, although there hasn't been research on this.

You can also get thrush on other areas of the body, such as your groin and inside your mouth. Babies can get thrush in their nappy area.

Your vagina also contains mucus and 'friendly' bacteria that help keep a healthy balance and protect you from infections like Candida. But some things can upset these natural defences and make you more likely to get thrush. You are more likely to get yeast infections if:[3][4][5]

  • You are pregnant. Pregnancy changes your hormone levels, and this can make you more prone to thrush

  • You have diabetes

  • You take antibiotics for another infection. Antibiotics are medicines that kill bacteria. Sometimes they kill off the 'friendly' bacteria that help prevent thrush

  • Your immune system has been affected by illness or by other medicines you are taking. This isn't a common cause of thrush. Your immune system normally protects you against infection

  • You become sexually active.

We don't really know if your chances of getting thrush increase if you use certain types of contraceptives, such as the contraceptive pill or coil (intrauterine device, or IUD for short), or a diaphragm with spermicide. Different studies say different things.[1][2] You might want to ask your GP about trying a different contraceptive if your thrush keeps coming back. But you shouldn't stop taking the contraceptive pill if you get thrush.

Doctors call thrush vulvovaginal candidiasis. Some women find their thrush keeps coming back. If you have bouts of thrush four or more times a year, doctors call this recurrent candidiasis.

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Last Updated: March 13, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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