The condition known as thrush is a form of yeast infection caused by a fungus that is naturally occurring in the vagina and on the penis. In around 80% to 90% cases of thrush, the cause is the fungus known as Candida Albicans, while in other cases it is other types of Candida fungi.
Interestingly, around half of the women who have naturally occurring Candida in the vagina do not suffer from any of the symptoms associated with vaginal thrush. Therefore, it is a widely held opinion that the growth of Candida and symptoms of thrush are caused by a change in the natural balance within the vagina. This change can either be a hormonal change, such as occurs during pregnancy; or a chemical change as a result of taking antibiotics.
What is likely to increase the chances of you suffering from male or female thrush?
Increased risk of vaginal or penile thrush may occur if you:
• Have a weakened immune system
• Have diabetes
• Are pregnant
• Take antibiotics
A Weakened Immune System
You have a higher risk of developing vaginal or penile thrush if you have a weakened immune system, which you might experience as a result of having chemotherapy or suffering from an immunosuppressive condition like AIDS or HIV. The reason for this is that your immune system, which in normal circumstances fights off any infections that enter your body, is not as strong as it should be and cannot effectively control and prevent the spread of Candida fungi.
Diabetes is a condition that is caused by having unnaturally high levels of glucose in your bloodstream. It is a long-term condition that is managed rather than cured and is normally kept under control by maintaining a balanced and healthy diet, as well as having regular injections of insulin.
However, problems can occur if your diabetes is not properly controlled. If the levels of glucose in your blood go up and down a lot instead of staying at a more consistent level, you will be much more likely to develop vaginal or penile thrush.
During pregnancy, the levels of female hormones in your body like oestrogen change, which increase the risk of you developing vaginal thrush. In this situation it is also more likely to become a recurring problem, even if you try to treat it.
As antibiotics not only kill off the bad bacteria, but also the good bacteria; a third of women (it is less frequent in males) who have been prescribed antibiotics are likely to suffer from vaginal thrush.
Though your chances of developing a yeast infection are greatly increased when you are taking any form of antibiotic; in order for your body to develop the actual yeast infection, the Candida fungus needs to already be present inside your vagina or on your penis.
For the above reasons men & women should only self-treat thrush if they are aged between 18 and 60 and have had it previously diagnosed by a GP. Recurrent episodes of thrush should be investigated by a doctor for an underlying cause.