Thrush is caused by a yeast called candida can be responsible for infections in the mouth, on the skin and around the genital area. Doctors call the infection candidiasis, but it’s known to most as thrush.
Thrush infections are more common in people who are pregnant, those taking antibiotics, or those who are prone to infections due to other medical conditions, such as poorly controlled diabetes or immunosuppression. It is common in the mouths of children and babies, and can be common in people who wear dentures. Most women will suffer from a vaginal thrush infection at some point in their life.
Thrush infections are easily treated with anti-fungal medications. Depending on where your infection is and how widespread, these come in the form of oral drops, pessaries, creams or tablets.
A thrush infection in the mouth (oral thrush) usually gives it deep red appearance with white patches on the surface. The white patches can be rubbed off, and may lead to slight bleeding underneath if you do so. It can cause pain, changes to your sense of taste, and it may be sore when you eat and drink (for babies they may avoid feeding as it’s painful).
A thrush infection in the vagina (vaginal thrush) can cause itching and soreness both inside the vagina and there may be a thick white discharge, the consistency of cottage cheese, but without any particular odour. The skin around the labial lips and groin folds can be infected, and you may see itchy and sore patches of redness. This can sometimes make it burn when you pee.
Thrush infection does not always need to be treated, but if it is bothersome or prolonged, then seek an antifungal medication.
Anyone over 4 months old with symptoms of oral thrush should speak to a pharmacist to trial some treatment. If you have severe symptoms, pain or any soreness when eating and drinking then speak to your doctor for further advice.
For vaginal symptoms, speak to your doctor if a child has symptoms. You can trial some treatment from your pharmacist if an adult has symptoms, and speak to your doctor if the symptoms do not improve or you are unsure whether it is a thrush infection.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should make the pharmacist or doctor aware – you can still be treated, but it's not safe to take fluconazole, the anti-fungal tablet available over-the-counter.
If you have a thrush infection, you are likely fit for work.
If you see your doctor, they will ask about your symptoms and, if you are comfortable, examine you. If the diagnosis is in doubt, they make take a swab or order blood tests or urine tests, depending on their assessment. The doctor may also prescribe some medication to help with your symptoms or clear the infection.
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