Suffer with soreness and constant itching? These are the thrush symptoms to look out for, and what to do when your yeast infection keeps coming back.
Is your lady V constantly itchy and sore? Chances are you have vaginal thrush —a yeast infection caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans fungus which usually lives in and on the body (in your mouth, throat, groin, genitals and armpits) problem-free. But when it multiplies, it can cause an infection in certain areas of the body, like your mouth, throat or genitals. Vaginal thrush being one of the most common.
But why do I keep getting thrush?
If you’re worried, don’t be — thrush is super common, affecting over 75% of women over the course of a lifetime. If you’ve never experienced it before, you’re one of the lucky ones. But for the rest of us who are all too familiar, when it does take root in your vagina, it can cause nasty symptoms, like itching, irritation, discharge and soreness during sex or urination.
What are the symptoms of vaginal thrush?
In women the most common symptoms of thrush are:
- White vaginal discharge (often described as being like cottage cheese) which is odourless
- Itching, irritation or swelling around the vagina and vulva
- Soreness, stinging or pain during sex or when you pee
What causes thrush?
Things like antibiotics, oral contraceptive use and hormonal changes can cause this overgrowth of Candida. More often than not, you can treat these symptoms quickly with an over-counter anti-fungal treatment, but if you’re still feeling itchy and sore, you might be suffering from recurring thrush.
What’s recurrent thrush?
Recurrent or persistent thrush is defined as having at least four episodes of symptomatic thrush within a year, but you should consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis, as your thrush symptoms could also mimic other vulval conditions such as vulval eczema, psoriasis and lichen schlerosus — a skin condition that makes patches of skin look white, thickened and crinkly.
Why do I keep getting thrush?
There are a number of factors that could be causing your yeast infection to rear its head. Here are 8 common culprits that could be the cause of your recurring thrush.
1. You’re taking antibiotics
Prescription medication can cause an imbalance of bacteria in the body, particularly the sensitive microenvironment in the vagina, which can lead to an excess of candida.
You can test your vagina's pH balance using Canesten Vaginal pH Self Test
Your vagina usually has an acidic pH level – this keeps the good and bad bacteria that live in your healthy vagina in check. Any changes to your vaginal pH balance can cause, and can also be an indication of an infection. Canesten Vaginal pH Self Test tells you if the pH has shifted in your vagina. This helps to diagnose the type of vaginal condition that you may be suffering from, such as thrush or bacterial vaginosis.
2. You’re pregnant and/or breastfeeding
Thrush is more common in pregnant and breastfeeding women. This is because of all the hormonal changes in your body. These can change the bacterial balance in the vagina, and weaken the immune system, making thrush far more likely. Speak to your GP before treating the infection, as you’ll require a different treatment.
3. You’re taking an oral contraceptive
Much like pregnancy, the hormonal imbalances caused by the contraceptive pill can throw your bacterial balance out of whack, putting you more at risk from infections like thrush. Speak to your doctor before coming off the pill, however, as there may be other solutions you can try.
4. You have diabetes
Yeast infections are a particular problem for those who suffer with diabetes, because sugar helps candida grow. High levels of sugar in your blood also mean high sugar levels in your sweat, saliva, and urine. That encourages yeast to grow in places like your mouth and genitals, which can end up leading to thrush.
5. You have a weak immune system
If you’re undergoing chemotherapy or diagnosed with HIV or other autoimmune diseases, your immune system will be much weaker than normal, thus increasing the risk of thrush. Those with a weakened immune system are also more at risk of the infection spreading to other parts of the body, like the lungs, liver and intestines.
Want to boost your immune system? Try these multivitamins for women
6. You’re using irritating products
Washing with scented shower gels or soaps can upset your vagina’s natural pH balance and increase the risk of a number of infections and irritations like BV, thrush, pelvic inflammatory disease and some STIs. Our advice? Use warm water or an unscented, gentle soap or intimate feminine wash like Vagisil or Femfresh instead.
7. Your clothes are too tight!
Excess heat can promote the overgrowth of yeasts. If you’re prone to thrush, avoid wearing tight fitting non breathable underwear or tights, especially for long periods of time.
8. You’re stressed
Stress can really impact your immune system, making you more at risk to infections like thrush. Here are some easy mindfulness techniques to help you bring relaxation, clarity and reassurance when you need it most.
To relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of thrush, including redness, swelling, itchiness, burning and discharge, try using one of the soothing creams below:
If you suffer with any recurring thrush symptoms, consult your doctor for a further examination and diagnosis.
Loved our advice on thrush symptoms and causes? We've got plenty more women's health and beauty advice on our Health & Wellness Edit, guaranteed to give your body a well-deserved boost. Is your lady V giving you grief? Here's how to keep your vagina healthy and happy. And if you suffer with UTIs, here are some treatments that will help alleviate the symptoms.