Genital thrush can afflict both men and women, but it is much more common in women. Around 75% of all women attract thrush at some point in their life. Up to 5% are afflicted more than once. The fungal infection genital thrush appears when one of the yeast species that exist naturally in the genital area starts growing excessively and starts causing problems such as skin infections or infections in mucous membranes. Most cases of thrush are caused by a fungus called candida albicans. Genital thrush is a harmless disease that heals by itself in most cases. The disease often causes discomfort and problems for those infected.
Symptoms in men and women
Common symptoms in women:
- A burning sensation or itching in and around the vagina
- Vaginal discharge may change colour. It can often become whitish and grainy
- There is generally no change in the smell
- The skin around the vagina often becomes red and irritated
- Swollen vaginal mucosae
- Pain during sex, and a burning sensation when peeing
Common symptoms in men:
- Red skin or red spots on the penis
- Itching skin rashes and light redness on the inner thighs or scrotum
- Affected areas feel tender and sensitive
- A malodorous whitish liquid can appear under the foreskin
- Pain when urinating
If you experience any of these symptoms for the first time or feel unsure about the symptoms, it is a good idea to consult your doctor and get a correct diagnosis and treatment suggestions. Some of the symptoms, especially those in women, may be similar to symptoms caused by other infections or diseases and will require another type of treatment.
There is an increased risk of attracting thrush when your immune system is weak. In women, changes in the vaginal flora may increase vulnerability to fungal attacks. Diabetics run a somewhat higher risk of getting an infection. During pregnancy, women get fungal infections more often, and it is more common for pregnant women to get infected more than once. When a woman’s hormone balance is changed by natural causes or by external factors such as medications, it may increase vulnerability to fungal infections.
Thrush can be sexually transferred to some extent. Infections caused by fungi cannot be transmitted from men to women, but they can be transferred from women to men.
If you want to avoid thrush, you can reduce the risk by following a few simple steps. Tips for women regard simple measures of how to take extra care of their genital hygiene.
- You should not wash your vagina with strong hygiene products, lukewarm water is enough.
- Soap and hygiene products may dry your vagina and make it less resistant to fungus.
- Do not direct the shower stream directly into the vagina.
For men, preventive measures are quite simple and related to personal hygiene. Men need to wash their genitals and the surrounding area carefully and regularly, and strongly perfumed hygiene products should be avoided. Lukewarm water or mild soap is enough. It is especially important to clean the area under the foreskin carefully. You should make sure that your genitals are dry before you put on clothes.
When you have gotten an infection
If you have developed thrush, there are effective treatments and measures that you can take for treating your infection at home and easing the symptoms. The self-care measures are like the preventive measures related to personal hygiene.
People suffering from thrush often experience itchy and irritated skin, and it is important not to wash the genital area too often, since that can dry the skin out and increase irritation. Cleaning the genital area once or twice a day with lukewarm water is usually enough, and you should avoid using soap or other hygiene products on affected areas. Male genitals are less sensitive than female genitals, and men can generally use mild soap when taking a shower. Another thing you can do is to apply neutral unscented oil such as baby oil to the genital area after washing, it may help to relieve itching and irritation. Breathable clothes and cotton underwear may help to relieve itching.
Remedies and treatments
Remedies used to treat thrush are agents that act against the fungus and kills it in order to remove the infection. Non-prescription medications are effective and gentle. These are ointments and creams that are applied to affected skin areas. Women can also use anti-thrush tablets. Treatments with fungicidal preparations can affect the vaginal flora in women, which may give rise to other problems. It is therefore a good idea to supplement fungicidal medications with non-prescription treatments that act by adjusting the vaginal flora.
Non-prescription treatments are normally effective, and one treatment is usually enough. Sometimes two treatments are required. However, you should not take more than two treatments in six months since the fungus may become resistant to the drug. If you have used more than two treatments for the same fungal infection, you should contact a doctor for advice and further treatment.