Vaginal thrush is the most common yeast infection in the vagina. It is usually caused by a fungus known as candida albicans, which exists naturally on the skin, mucous membranes and the gastrointestinal tract. In certain conditions, the amount of candida multiplies excessively, causing an infection.
Factors increasing the risk of thrush include, antibiotics, diabetes and a high-sugar diet. Tight clothing and contact with sanitary towels may also cause thrush.
Typical symptoms include stinging, itching, mild swelling of the labia, and white, odourless discharge that looks like cottage cheese. The discharge may also be watery and greyish. The mucous membranes may be irritated and red and have small cuts. General symptoms, such as fever or abdominal pain, do not usually occur.
If you have had thrush before and you are familiar with the symptoms, you can treat thrush with over-the-counter antifungal medication available at pharmacies (vaginal pessaries, fluconazole tablets and creams). The pharmacy staff will help you choose the right products. Follow the instructions on the package carefully. Be aware when you treat thrush at home that the symptoms may also be caused by some other condition that will require different treatment.
Maintain good personal hygiene to avoid recurrence. However, avoid using soap in the genital area. Use washing gel or liquids with a pH less than 7.
Wipe from front to back. Use air-circulating underwear and pay attention to your choice of sanitary pads and products and avoid anything with strong perfumes.
Avoid foods that are high in sugar, but avoiding products with yeast is not necessary.
If you treat thrush at home, only use specific antifungal products available from pharmacies.
When should you seek medical advice?
You should seek medical advice if
- you are experiencing symptoms for the first time.
- you are under 16 or over 60.
- you have frequently occurring thrush.
- you have irregular discharge that has blood in it or a foul odour.
- you have other symptoms including lower abdominal pain and/or temperature or you have difficulty urinating.
- you have blisters in your genital area, you suspect that you may have an STI or your partner also shows symptoms.
- your symptoms show no sign of getting better after three days, or persist longer than one week.
- your symptoms are getting worse during treatment.
This Self-care instruction has been produced in collaboration with Duodecim Terveyskirjasto