Back to Women's Health
Taking care of vaginal thrush
Many women will be affected by vaginal thrush at some stage in their lives. It’s caused by a change in the natural balance of the body’s bacteria which may give you an itchy or burning feeling.
Fortunately there are things you can do to help prevent vaginal thrush and treatment options are readily available from your Unichem Pharmacy.
So what causes thrush?
Vaginal thrush is a common condition caused by an overgrowth of a yeast, called candida albicans, which normally inhabits the gastrointestinal tract, skin and vagina. There are many factors that may trigger an attack of vaginal thrush:
- A weakened immune system
- Antibiotic treatment
- Before or after your period
- Emotional or physical stress
- Hot weather
- Increase in blood sugar levels
- Medical conditions such as diabetes or HIV
- Oral contraceptive pill
- Pregnancy or menopause
- Skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis
- Tight clothing that promotes excessive sweating, eg wetsuits, synthetic underwear
- Vaginal deodorants, soaps or bath salts
Identifying the symptoms
- Symptoms of vaginal thrush may include:
- Genital itching
- Irritation or burning
- A thick, white or creamy vaginal discharge
It’s important to note that not all vaginal discharge is thrush. You can discuss your symptoms with your Unichem Pharmacist in private for advice.
Men who are infected by a partner with vaginal thrush may show symptoms such as itching or redness in the groin area or on the head of the penis – a condition known as balanitis. Symptoms may be more noticeable after sex.
How to treat vaginal thrush
Treatment is available from your Unichem Pharmacist without a prescription. Treatment options include anti-fungal creams, pessaries (tablets which are inserted into the vagina), or oral capsules. All of the available treatments work by stopping the growth of candida without affecting ‘helpful’ bacteria naturally present within the vagina.
It’s important to know that some vaginal creams and pessaries may weaken the latex of rubber condoms.
While you have thrush and during treatment it’s important to:
- Use sanitary pads instead of tampons
- Avoid wearing tight undergarments
- Keep up your personal hygiene – salt-water baths may help soothe any inflammation
- Wash your hands before and after using vaginal creams and pessaries
- Finish the entire course of treatment, even if your thrush improves
Men can use an antifungal cream to treat thrush – also available from Unichem Pharmacies.
Six tips to prevent thrush
The best way to prevent thrush is to identify what triggers the condition for you. It may be helpful to:
- Always wipe from front (vagina) to the back (anus) after urinating
- Avoid deodorised panty shields, bubble bath solutions or vaginal douches
- Avoid spermicidal condoms and use only water-based lubricants
- Avoid use of soap, deodorants or talcum powder on skin around the genitals
- Take probiotics whenever you are prescribed antibiotics
- Wear loose cotton underwear and avoid tight clothing
When to see your doctor
Most cases of vaginal thrush can be treated following a consultation with your Unichem Pharmacist, however, you should seek your doctor’s advice if:
- It’s the first time you have experienced an abnormal vaginal discharge
- This is your third time getting vaginal thrush in six months
- You are or could be pregnant
- You are under 16 years of age or over 60 years of age
- You have had unprotected sex
- You have pain, fever or feel unwell
- Your symptoms have not improved after three or four days of treatment
Tania – Pharmacist, Unichem Albany Metro, Auckland