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Recurring thrush - why do I keep getting it?

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What is recurring thrush?

Recurring thrush is when you’ve had four or more episodes of thrush in a year. 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.

What causes recurring thrush?

The cause of recurrent thrush is unknown. Certain factors can make your risk of developing thrush higher than others. Your body goes 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?

There are many factors which can help to explain why you keep getting thrush, these include:

Your partner has thrush

If you have thrush your partner may have it too, this is the case for all genders. If your partner is male find out more about thrush treatment. If treatment doesn’t properly clear symptoms your partner can keep re-infecting you with thrush.

Treatment hasn’t fully cleared the infection

Treating thrush can clear thrush fully and get rid of any symptoms. Occasionally the infection hasn’t completely gone and some of the bacteria that caused the symptoms remain. This can lead to another outbreak.

The infection can live on in the bladder or under nails. From here it can spread to other parts of the body. This can result in recurrent thrush. That’s why it’s important to wash your hands regularly, watch our hand washing video to find out more.

Continuing to use perfumed soaps or washes

Thrush occurs when the delicate balance of organisms, fungus and bacteria that live harmoniously in your body is disrupted. Using perfumed soap and washes can upset this balance causing irritation.  

You’re pregnant or you’ve got diabetes

Being pregnant or having diabetes can make you more prone to infections such as thrush.

Why do I keep getting thrush before my period?

Many women experience thrush during their period. Before and during your period the delicate pH levels in your vagina change. This change can lead to thrush during your period, before or even after.

Sanitary products can irritate the vagina and introduce infection. Your vagina is self-cleaning, if during your menstrual cycle you are cleaning your vagina more frequently this can wash away the good bacteria.

If you experience thrush around every period

If you get thrush with most periods, it might not be a new infection every time. The previous infection may not have been properly resolved or treated – this is known as recurrent thrush. To properly clear the infection, you will need to finish the course of treatment, even if the signs of infection have begun to clear.

Recurrent thrush treatment

Many over the counter treatment aren’t suitable for recurring thrush, especially if you’ve had an episode of thrush within the past six months. If you are experiencing recurring thrush, you should see your GP. 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.

If you have been diagnosed with thrush before and recognise the symptoms, you’ll need to use antifungal medicine each time you have thrush. These can be bought over the counter in your local pharmacy or some supermarkets.

Treatments for thrush include:

  • Tablets that you swallow
  • Creams that you apply to stop itching
  • Tablets (pessaries) that you place inside your vagina

Many of these treatments should help to relieve symptoms within one week. You might find that you need to take your thrush treatment for longer than normal to stop it recurring in the future.

Can thrush be a sign of stress?

When we’re put under a lot of stress 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.

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.

If you have diabetes, it’s important that you properly manage your condition. Make 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, you can get it again. Even if you have had treatment to clear the infection. This doesn’t make you immune to thrush.

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. 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 LloydsDirect by LloydsPharmacy. With simple in-app ordering and reminders to re-order, our prescription delivery service couldn’t be easier.