Thrush is the widely used term for a common fungal infection caused by Candida albicans. Usually this takes the form of trivial vaginal or mouth infections, although it can affect the body more widely and seriously on rare occasions.
This causes itch and a cheesy discharge. The area is often redder than usual. It is often painful too, especially on intercourse, and may be associated with frequency of passing water and burning or pain on passing water. It may, therefore be confused with bladder infections (cystitis). Thrush, however, is usually associated with itching, which cystitis is not.
This may cause a sore mouth and throat, and as well as redness, it is characterised by white discharge on the surface. Babies, especially those being bottle fed, may suffer from this, as well as adults.
One cause of a persistent nappy rash is infection of the area with thrush.
The cause is a fungus which is found widely in nature (Candida albicans), and indeed, is frequently present in the mouth and motions of people in good health. It seems that it is at periods when the defence mechanisms are down that it actually causes a problem. This can be when physically or mentally "run down", in women either pregnant or on the oral contraceptive pill, in diabetes and people either on steroids, or whose immune systems are suppressed.
Antibiotics, which deplete the naturally occurring bacteria, which are useful to the body, as well as the invading bacteria which they are being used to treat, may disturb the natural balance of the body and lead to thrush developing.
Thrush is otherwise known as Candidiasis, Moniliasis, or yeast infection.
This can usually be made from the symptoms and the look of the affected area, but may be confirmed by a swab being taken by the nurse or doctor, which is examined at the laboratory.
- Locally applied creams, pessaries, lozenges or gels, depending on the site affected. The most widely used are the imidazoles although there are other useful preparations. If in doubt consult with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Systemically administered preparations, such as capsules or tablets. These are costly, but very effective, and usually only require a single dose.
- Avoid unnecessary antibiotics.
- When bottle feeding babies, ensure careful sterilisation of the bottles, including the whole teat.
- If taking antibiotics, especially repeated courses, consider taking live yoghurts or preparations containing the same sort of microorganisms.
- People who frequently get thrush should have a blood or urine test for glucose, to rule out diabetes.
- Diabetics should attempt to control their blood glucose level as recommended by their doctor.
- People using inhaled steroids for asthma should always rinse out their mouths after using their inhalers, and may find that their doctor can recommend a different inhaler device, if they seem to be unduly suffering from thrush.
- Some women prone to vaginal thrush find that using cotton underwear and the avoidance of tight clothing help to reduce the risk.
- In women with recurrent vaginal thrush, it is often worth their partner using some treatment at the same time as them, as the infection may affect him without symptoms, and be causing reinfection.
- Coping with Thrush, by Caroline Clayton
- Information about thrush, how to treat it, and how to prevent it recurring.