Vaginal thrush is an infection caused by a type of yeast called Candida albicans.
The yeast lives naturally in the different areas of the body including the vagina and is usually kept at harmless levels by the body’s immune system. When yeast levels in the vagina grow too quickly, vaginal thrush will result causing a range of unpleasant symptoms.
About 75 per cent of women in Nigeria will experience vaginal thrush at least once in their lives. It’s also quite common for the infection to be recurrent.
Symptoms of vaginal thrush
Common symptoms of thrush include itching and/or burning of the vagina or vulva.
Other symptoms include:
- Soreness and inflammation of the area
- Thick white discharge
- Pain while urinating or during sex
- Cracked skin in the area
Vaginal thrush is caused by an increase in the amount of Candida albicans in the vagina.
Reasons for this may include:
- Taking antibiotics
- A weakened immune system
- Taking oral contraceptives
- Wearing tight-fitting clothing
- Other vulval skin conditions
Vaginal thrush is usually diagnosed by your symptoms. As other conditions can cause similar symptoms, a swab is sometimes taken to confirm diagnosis.
Many women are able to treat the symptoms of vaginal thrush by using over-the-counter treatments such as antifungal creams or vaginal pessaries. Anti-thrush oral tablets, called fluconazole, may be taken to treat severe cases but should be used under the supervision of a doctor and are not to be taken by pregnant women.
How to prevent vaginal thrush
It’s not known why some women are more prone to vaginal thrush but it is known that it’s caused by a change in the pH levels of the vagina. The pH levels of the vagina are affected by hormonal changes which is why pregnant, menopausal and women at the start of their period are sometimes more prone to developing the infection.
There are various suggestions for helping to prevent thrush recurring.
- Avoiding sugar
- Wearing cotton underwear and loose clothing
- Avoiding using perfumed products around the area such as soaps and fragranced toilet paper
- Wiping front to back after going to the toilet
- Using a more natural laundry detergent