SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Thrush is a common yeast infection that can occur on different parts of the body. It is caused by a yeast overgrowth known as candida albicans.
- Vaginal thrush can cause various symptoms including an itchy vagina or vulva, white vaginal discharge and stinging or burning.
- Antifungal vaginal creams and suppositories help reduce overgrowth of candida and ease thrush symptoms.
- Although vaginal thrush is uncomfortable, it does not cause any long-term health issues.
- See your doctor if you keep getting thrush infections.
What is vaginal thrush
Vaginal thrush is a common yeast infection caused by an overgrowth of the yeast candida albicans. This yeast lives naturally in the bowel and in small numbers in the vagina. It’s mostly harmless, but symptoms can develop if yeast numbers increase.
About 75% of women will have vaginal thrush in their lifetime. Other names for this infection are candidiasis or monilia.
Symptoms can include vaginal itching or burning, a white vaginal discharge and stinging or burning while urinating.
Vaginal creams or vaginal tablets (known as pessaries or suppositories) can help relieve thrush symptoms.
Thrush can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the mouth (known as oral thrush).
Symptoms of vaginal thrush
Symptoms you may experience if you develop vaginal thrush include:
- vaginal and vulval discomfort – itching or burning
- a thick, white discharge with a ‘cottage cheese’ appearance with or without a yeasty smell
- redness or swelling of the vagina or vulva
- redness and swelling and sometimes splits or cracks in the genital skin
- stinging or burning while urinating or during .
These symptoms can usually be treated by using an over-the-counter product from the pharmacy.
See a doctor (GP) if you:
- are unsure if what you are experiencing is thrush
- have had several episodes of thrush over the past year
- have had recent sex without a condom or dam with a new partner
- have other symptoms like – pain, abnormal bleeding, sores or coloured discharge
- have tried an over-the-counter treatment but did not bet better.
Diagnosis of vaginal thrush
To make a diagnosis of vaginal thrush, your GP will need to:
- take a detailed history of your symptoms
- examine your genitals
- take a swab from the affected area.
Vaginal thrush causes
It’s caused by an overgrowth of the yeast candida albicans, which is normally found on the genital skin. This overgrowth may occur due to:
- recent antibiotic use
- general health conditions (like and disorders)
- associated vulval skin conditions (such as , or )
- immunosuppressive medications.
Sometimes, the reason for candida overgrowth can’t be identified.
Frequent thrush can be a sign of chronic vulval dermatitis.
Vaginal thrush treatment
Treatment aims to reduce the number of yeasts, so they no longer cause symptoms. Options that are available from your local pharmacist without a prescription include:
- Antifungal creams or vaginal suppositories (pessaries) – these are put inside the vagina with a special applicator and used from one to 7 days, depending on the product. Occasionally a second course of treatment is required. Repeated topical treatments (applied to the skin) may occasionally cause skin irritation. Thrush creams can weaken condoms, so treatment should be applied after sex.
- A single 150 mg dose tablet (called Fluconazole) – this treatment has similar effectiveness to creams or suppositories (pessaries). It is more expensive than other options and is not recommended during pregnancy. If you are on other medications or pregnant, see your doctor or pharmacist before taking oral medication for thrush. Fluconazole is safe to use with the contraceptive pill.
Preventing vaginal thrush
To help prevent vaginal thrush:
- Wipe your bottom from front to back after going to the toilet. This will prevent the spread of candida albicans from the anus to the vagina.
- Avoid using soap to wash the genital area. Soap substitutes can be used.
- Avoid using antiseptics, douches or perfumed sprays (often sold as 'feminine hygiene products') in the genital area.
- Avoid using perfumed toilet papers and menstrual products.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting pants and synthetic underwear.
- Consider changing your laundry detergent and don’t use fabric softeners.
- If you frequently experience thrush after taking antibiotics, seek advice from your GP. Think about planning ahead by taking thrush treatment when symptoms first occur.
Vaginal thrush and sex
Repeated painful sex during thrush episodes can lead to ongoing vaginal and vulval pain that persists even after thrush is treated. You may wish to avoid sex during this time.
Thrush is not an STI, but male partners can sometimes get redness and irritation after sex.
Ruling out other vaginal and vulvar conditions
- have had several episodes of thrush in a short period
- have had recent sex without a condom with a new partner
- have associated or
- treated yourself with a thrush treatment and your symptoms haven’t gone away.
Managing recurrent vaginal thrush
If you experience repeated episodes of vaginal thrush (4 or more episodes in a year), see your GP.
Approximately 5% of people with a vagina experience recurrent thrush. This condition is different to standard thrush because discharge is not always present. Instead vaginal dryness and lack of lubrication during sexual activity is experienced.
People experiencing recurrent thrush are hypersensitive to candida albicans. The condition is treatable and needs to be confirmed and treated by a GP. The usual minimum length of treatment for recurrent thrush is about 6 months.
Any factor contributing to the overgrowth of candida albicans should be identified and managed. If no contributing factors are found, a course of preventative treatment may be recommended.
There is no evidence to support the treatment of male partners of women who experience thrush.
Thrush outbreaks, while uncomfortable, do not cause any long-term health issues.
There is also no clear evidence that dietary changes prevent thrush, but the research is limited.
Where to get help
- . To book an appointment call SHV Melbourne CBD Clinic: or call SHV Box Hill Clinic: or (free call): . These services are youth friendly.
- Tel. or or TTY (for people with a hearing impairment)
- (throughout Victoria)
- , East Melbourne Tel.
- (formerly Victorian AIDS Council) Tel. or
- Tel. or
- , Wodonga Tel. or
- Tel. (in Victoria) for information about sexual health, contraception and pregnancy options