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Recurring thrush - why do I keep getting it?

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What causes recurring thrush?

Recurring thrush is classed as such if you have had four or more episodes of thrush in a year. The true cause of recurrent thrush is unknown and there are many factors which can help to explain why you keep getting bouts of thrush:

  • Your partner keep re-infecting you with thrush
  • The first lot of treatment didn’t fully clear the infection
  • You repeat behaviour that causes irritation to your genitals, for example using perfumed soaps or washes
  • You are pregnant
  • You are diabetic and have difficulty managing your condition

Certain factors can make your risk of developing thrush higher than others, and your body may go through changes that affect your immune system and the levels of bacteria in your body, making you more prone to infections.

Why do I keep getting thrush?

You might find that you frequently have thrush this could be because you are predisposed to the infection, for example if you are diabetic or pregnant. Thrush occurs when the delicate balance of organisms, fungus and bacteria that live harmoniously in your body is disrupted. Usually these things do not cause you any harm and then can keep you feeling healthy, however when your body is put under stress from illness or other circumstances infections can occur. Treating thrush can clear thrush fully and get rid of any symptoms, however occasionally the infection is not destroyed and some of the bacteria that caused the symptoms remain. This can lead to another outbreak, occasionally the infection lives on in the bladder or nail beds where it lives, multiples and then is able to spread to other parts of the body. This can result in recurrent thrush that keeps coming back and causing you issues.

Why do I keep getting thrush before my period?

Thrush is caused by an unbalancing in the body, whether this is bacterial or hormonal. Before and during your period the delicate pH levels in your vagina change, this can lead to thrush during your period, before or even after. Many women experience thrush during their period, as sanitary products can irritate the vagina and introduce infection. If during your menstrual cycle you are cleaning your vagina more frequently this can wash away the good bacteria, and stop your vagina from carrying out its own cleaning processes.

You might find that instead of developing a new bout of thrush each month, the previous infection may not have been properly resolved or treated, and so you experience recurrent thrush. In order to properly clear the infection you will need to finish the course of treatment or antibiotics, if the signs of infection have begun to clear. If you experience recurring thrush, especially if you have had it more than twice in the past six months, you should talk to your GP or pharmacist who will be able to discuss treatment options with you. You might find that you need to take your thrush treatment for longer than normal and that the root cause of the infection can be resolved, stopping it recurring in the future.

Recurrent thrush treatment

If you are experiencing recurring thrush then it is recommended that you see your GP. They’ll be able to determine the cause and help you with treatments. For recurring thrush many over the counter treatments are not suitable, especially if you have had an episode of thrush within the past six months.

Each time you have thrush you’ll need to use antifungal medicine. These can be bought over the counter in your local pharmacy or some supermarkets, if you have been diagnosed with thrush before and recognise the symptoms. Treatments for thrush includes tablets that you swallow, creams that you apply to stop itching or tablets (pessaries) that you place inside your vagina, from brands like Canesten.

Many of these treatments should help to relieve symptoms within one week. Your GP or a healthcare professional at a sexual health clinic may be able to help find the cause of the thrush you are experiencing.

Can thrush be a sign of stress?

When we’re put under a lot of stress, from work or events going on in our home or social lives, it can affect our bodies and how they work. Stress can make us feel run down and weaken our immune system, making us vulnerable to illnesses such as colds as well as infections such as thrush. When the body’s normal balance is put out of joint, and the good bacteria which keeps any bad bacteria in check is weakened, infections, like thrush can occur.

How do you stop recurring thrush?

There are lifestyle and hygiene changes that you can make to lower your risk of developing thrush, as well as keeping you in good health. Making sure that you eat a varied and balance diet will help to support your immune system keeping you feeling good and able to fight off infection. If you have diabetes it is important that you properly manage your condition, making sure that your blood sugar levels are steady as this will help to stop you from getting thrush.

Other precautions you can take against thrush include:

  • Washing your underwear in gentle and fragrance free detergent
  • Having showers rather than baths
  • Washing your genitals with unperfumed soaps
  • Making sure to dry your genitals properly after washing, especially the foreskin of your penis
  • Wearing cotton underwear
  • Avoid wearing tights or tight jeans
  • Not using douches or deodorants on your genitals

I've had thrush once, can I get it again?

Yes, if you have had thrush in the past and have had treatment to clear the infection this does make you immune to thrush. In order words you can get thrush multiple times.

How do you know if you have thrush?

The yeast infection thrush has recognisable symptoms such as red and irritated skin, as well as itching and vaginal discharge. Find out more in our thrush symptoms guide.

Who can get thrush?

Both men and women can experience the yeast infection known as thrush. Commonly the infection affects women more than it does men, however it causes similar symptoms in both sexes.

Can I get thrush treatment on prescription?

Yes, thrush treatment is available from your local pharmacy and on prescription from your GP. Some forms of thrush treatment may only be available on prescription, this includes higher strength varieties, but your GP will be able to tell you which is right for you. If you have a repeat NHS prescription you can get your medication delivered to your door for free with Echo by LloydsPharmacy. With simple in-app ordering and reminders to re-order, our prescription delivery service couldn’t be easier.