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What causes thrush?

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Why do you get thrush?

Thrush is an infection caused by the yeast Candida albicans, these organisms live harmlessly on your body. They develop into an infection during times that your immune system is compromised and your body’s natural balance is disrupted. Then the yeast grows and multiplies uncontrollably causing painful sores, itching and discomfort.

How do you get a yeast infection?

Thrush thrives in warm and moist conditions, and many people develop the infection on or around their genitals. Although not classed as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) thrush can be triggered by sex and very rarely it is passed on through sex.

Yeast infection causes can include:

  • Antibiotics – if you’re taking a course of antibiotics this can alter the levels of bacteria in your body
  • Irritated skin – skin conditions, wounds or sores are more vulnerable to infections
  • Diabetes – if your condition is poorly controlled this can lead to yeast infections
  • Weakened immune system
  • You have gone through the menopause
  • You’re pregnant

During all of these instances your body is undergoing many changes, some of these hormonal. These changes can affect the levels of good and bad bacteria that live in your body, disrupting the delicate balance and making you more vulnerable to infections.

How do you avoid getting thrush?

There are steps that you can take to prevent yourself from developing thrush while supporting the natural balance of bacteria within your body. Many women eat probiotic yoghurts and take supplements in a bid to stop them getting thrush, however doing so is not commonly supported by healthcare practitioners.

Making sure that you take care of yourself with a good hygiene routine as well as a healthy balanced diet will help to protect you against developing thrush.

Other ways you can avoid getting thrush include:

  • Avoid using perfumed soaps and gels to clean your genitals
  • Properly dry the tip of your penis after washing
  • Wear loose cotton underwear
  • Use sensitive or fragrance free detergents to wash your underwear
  • Have showers instead of baths
  • Avoid wearing tights
  • Don’t use douches or deodorants on your genitals

If you have diabetes it is important that you blood sugar levels are kept under control, as poorly managing your condition can lead to outbreaks of yeast infections.

What does thrush look like?

Thrush can sometimes cause no symptoms at all, but when it does skin can become sore, itchy and uncomfortable. Consult our symptoms guide to find out more about what thrush looks like.

How do you treat thrush?

There are gels, creams, pessaries and tablets that can be used to treat thrush. Consult our thrush treatment guide for more information. You can also talk to your GP, pharmacist or a nurse at your local sexual health clinic about your symptoms.

Who can get thrush?

Both men and women can have thrush on their vagina or penis, as well as other parts of their bodies. However those with weakened of developing immune systems such as babies or the elderly are more susceptible to oral thrush.