Thrush Guide

Thrush is a very common infection that can occur in men and women of all ages, as well as in babies. There are a few extremely common misconceptions attached to the infection, including the mistaken belief that men cannot get thrush, and that the thrush infection in the genitals is a form of sexually transmitted disease. These two statements are both false, and are probably a result of a lack of knowledge of what actually causes the infection. 

The yeast that causes thrush is called Candida albicans, and is a naturally occurring organism in both men and women residing in the gut and in some women, the vagina. It is estimated that around one in five women harbour the yeast that causes the infection in their vagina naturally and healthily without any development of an infection. However, as with many systems in the body, it normally doesn’t take much to throw things out of balance, and the balance of Candida in the body is no exception to this. There are certain conditions and activities that will increase your chances of developing the infection, but a lot of the time it cannot be avoided. It is actually estimated that the majority of young babies will suffer from at least one mild bout of oral thrush, and that every woman will get thrush at least once in their life time. Many women will actually suffer from the infection repeated times.

The typical symptoms of thrush in men and women include itching or redness, irritation, soreness, an uncomfortable sensation whilst having sex or passing urine, or discharge.  Some people will not experience any of these symptoms, whilst others will experience all of them. The level of severity of the symptoms also varies from person to person, and is different in most cases. This can make self-diagnosis of thrush difficult in some cases, and many people will have the thrush infection without knowing it at all.

The symptoms of oral thrush are obviously different to the symptoms of thrush on the body or in the genitals. These symptoms can include yellow or off-white coloured spots on the tongue and in the mouth that when scraped off, can bleed slightly or leave a mark. Although this may sound distressing, oral thrush is usually pain-free, although in some adults can cause a burning sensation in both the mouth and the throat. This burning sensation is usually not experienced in babies, and is usually cleared up naturally over the course of a few days. In adults, it is recommended to seek medical treatment to clear up the infection, although it will clear up naturally in different cases.

The causes of thrush are potentially very vast. It is considered by most medical professionals that in order to develop vaginal thrush, there needs to be a shift in the natural PH balance in the vagina. This change can create conditions that the Candida fungus will thrive on, thus causing the infection. This shift in the natural PH balance can come from something like taking antibiotics, hormone changes during pregnancy, having diabetes, and having a generally weaker immune system than is usual. However, thrush can develop through simple things such as the use of heavily perfumed shower products, wearing tight trousers of hosiery too often and being stressed or particularly run down.

In men, the causes are usually around the same as the causes for women. Conditions such as HIV and diabetes increase the potential you have for developing the infection due to a weaker immune system. Just as with women, whenever the ‘good’ bacteria naturally present in your body is attacked or destroyed, the risk of developing thrush also increases so, again, can occur when taking antibiotics. Personal hygiene is also a determining factor in the development of thrush in men, and not drying the penis properly after showering can create a moist and warm environment that thrush thrives in.

Oral thrush also has a wide range of possible causes, one of the predominant ones being diabetes. Sufferers from diabetes can often suffer from recurring bouts of oral thrush due to the difficulty of completely controlling the body’s natural glucose levels. A higher blood sugar level can lead to an increased amount of glucose in the saliva, thus leading to oral thrush. Other common causes can include smoking, poor oral health, or taking oral medication for an injury in the mouth.

Thrush in healthy babies of less than two years old is a very common occurrence, and many babies suffer from bouts of the infection. This is due to an immature immune system, as the natural immune system takes time to develop and become as strong as it is as an adult. Oral thrush is more common in premature babies as their immune systems are especially not as strong and developed.

Is Thrush a Sexually Transmitted Disease? »