What is thrush?
Thrush is a common yeast infection caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans fungus, particularly in warm, moist environments. Although the yeast infection is more common in women, it does affect men too, and it is most typically identified by its discharge (similar to cottage cheese in appearance) as well as swelling and itching.
What causes recurring thrush?
Although thrush is usually simple to treat and can be cleared up in a few days, recurring infections are not uncommon. Recurring thrush involves having persistent symptoms or experiencing more than 3 episodes of thrush within one year, and finding its cause is essential for successfully treating it.
Here are some of the most common causes of recurrent thrush:
You aren’t completing the full treatment
If you aren’t completing the full dose of your thrush antibiotics or you’re only using thrush cream for a few days, you may not be giving it enough time to work properly. It’s important to follow the recommended usage. If your thrush symptoms persist then you may need a different treatment such as a pessary or oral capsule, so even if the yeast infection feels much better, don’t cut things short: thrush may still be present.
Your partner has thrush
A recurrent thrush infection may be down to your partner also having thrush. While thrush is not classed as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it can be passed on during sex and triggered by sex, so you may be reinfecting each other. A simple test at your local sexual health clinic or doctor's clinic will confirm this, but if your partner is showing symptoms then a genital thrush cream can be used on their penis or vagina to treat the infection.
You’re using products that cause a recurrent infection
It’s important to think about the products you’re using, such as soap and shower gel. For women in particular, a common cause of thrush is not using the right intimate care products: highly-fragrant washes can alter your natural PH balance and cause vaginal soreness and irritation. If you’ve recently started using a new product that may be causing problems, you should try switching to a gentler alternative.
Your menstrual cycle is altering your pH levels
Recurrent vaginal thrush may crop up around the time of your period as this is when your pH levels change, making you more susceptible to developing thrush. Your period is natural, of course, but it could be worth trying a different type of menstruation product that causes less irritation. Additionally, change your sanitary pad or tampon regularly to ensure that your genital area can breathe.
You have bacterial vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis is often confused with persistent thrush, and if you’re treating the wrong infection then you aren’t going to see an improvement in your symptoms. You can get BV and thrush at the same time, but if your discharge has a strong fishy smell then it’s more likely to be bacterial vaginosis. There are plenty of BV treatments available to rebalance the pH levels inside the vagina and clear up your symptoms.
Where can recurring thrush develop?
Thrush can grow all over the body, but it most commonly occurs as a genital infection. Thrush symptoms, however, are very similar wherever the infection crops up, usually including a white discharge that can look like cottage cheese.
Recurrent thrush can occur in the following areas:
Vagina or penis
Recurrent vaginal thrush or thrush of the penis are the most common types of thrush. Itching, soreness, swelling, difficulty retracting the foreskin, and unusual discharge are all tell-tale signs that thrush has developed (or returned). If you notice these symptoms, seek help and start treatment as soon as you can.
Mouth and throat
You can also develop oral thrush. In this case, you may be able to see a white coating on your tongue or at the back of your throat. You may also have a feeling of ‘cotton wool’ in your mouth. Recurrent oral thrush may be down to poor oral hygiene, dry mouth, or even using medication (including inhalers). An oral thrush treatment will help clear up symptoms.
Folds of the skin
Thrush may also develop in folds of the skin, with danger areas being the groin, under the breasts, the armpits, and between the fingers. Wearing tight clothing and not drying your skin properly are just some of the causes of skin-related thrush, which may appear as a red rash with white discharge. An antifungal cream will help calm the yeast infection, but if symptoms persist then you should consider making some lifestyle changes.
Having a recurring thrush infection is no fun. Thankfully, you don’t need to put up with it. There are many effective treatments available, and you can make lifestyle changes that will help you keep thrush at bay.
At The Independent Pharmacy, we offer professional advice on how to manage thrush symptoms. Speak to one of our experts today for professional advice.