Diagnosing 'Down There' - 10 Tips for Managing Thrush
To mark the launch of the new at-home test for diagnosing vaginal infections, we list ten ways to diagnose and prevent thrust and BV.
Do you know it all about thrush?
For a common and easily treatable condition that affects most of us at some point in our lives[i], thrush is somehow still seen as an embarrassing illness[ii]. Read our ten tips on both understanding and dealing with thrush below.
Remember, it’s just an imbalance…
Thrush is caused by the overgrowth of fungi called Candida, which lives in the vagina, mouth and digestive tract in small numbers and is normally harmless. When the balance of naturally occurring organisms in the vagina is disrupted, an overgrowth of Candida can occur. Things that disrupt this balance include taking a course of antibiotics, since these drugs can kill off the normal defence bacteria that live in the vagina and stomach.
…And you’re not alone!
Don't be embarrassed about having thrush - it’s much more common than you might think. One estimate is that three out of four women[iii] have it at some point in their lives, especially if they are under the age of 20 or pregnant, and it is common around menstruation.
How to tell if you have it
The main symptoms[iv] of thrush include:
- Vaginal discharge, which usually has a cottage cheese-like appearance and is often described by many women to be white, thick, cheesy, and sticky
- Itching and burning
- Redness, soreness and pain, including pain during sex and urination
- Vaginal fissuring (in more severe cases)
- And more rarely, sores can appear around your genital area.
Treating at home – and how it works
It's important to treat thrush internally and externally with a combination treatment to help ensure the infection doesn’t come back. The good news is that you can easily and effectively treat with over the counter (OTC) products, which include[v]:
- Antifungal creams - administered directly to the outside of the vagina to relieve itching
- Pessaries – tablet inserted into the vagina
- Combination treatment – contains an antifungal cream and a pessary to treat the infection at source.
Visit your local pharmacy and ask about which treatment will suit you best.
When to visit a doctor
If you are treating your thrush at home and it’s not clearing up, or you’re worried about your symptoms, visit your GP to be safe. Oral tablets are available from your doctor on prescription.
Can I prevent thrush?
There are definitely things you can do to reduce the risk of thrush, including:
- Washing your vaginal area with just water
- Avoiding latex condoms, spermicidal creams or lubricants if they irritate your genital area
- Avoiding tight-fitting underwear (or tights), and wearing cotton underwear and loose-fitting trousers and skirts
- Sometimes probiotics are taken to prevent vaginal thrush, but as there's no clear evidence that this works they can’t be relied upon[vi].
What not to use in the shower
Strong and perfumed shower gels, creams and vaginal washes may disrupt the natural balance of the vagina described above – so to reduce the risk of thrush, avoid these.
Should thrush smell…fishy?
A strong smell of yeast can accompany thrush and shouldn’t be a cause of concern, but another type of vaginal condition – called bacterial vaginosis (BV) – causes a distinctive and fishy smell.
What is BV?
Much like thrush, BV is caused by an overgrowth in the bacteria that live naturally in the vagina. Normally, the bacteria which cause BV are kept in check by the presence of 'good' bacteria, called lactobacilli, which keep the vagina acidic. One way to differentiate between thrush and BV is that BV normally doesn’t cause itching[vii]. However, around half of all women with BV have no symptomsvii.
If you’re unsure what your vaginal symptoms are you can try the new self-test kit from Canesten. Canestest is a simple to use swab that diagnoses your infection in 10 seconds. Alternatively, you can visit your doctor for further advice.
To find out more…
For more information and to answer any other questions you may have, visit http://thrush.ie/faqs.
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