Thrush or vaginal candidiasis is generally thought as the overgrowth of an organism which occurs normally in the body (mostly the culprit is the fungus candida albicans)
It is relatively common and affect about three-quarters of women between the ages of 20-40. The most notable symptom is excessive itching, but also soreness and red skin is present, and pain or discomfort when urinating or when having sex. There is usually a sticky white discharge which is odorless- usually the presence of an unpleasant smell indicates a bacterial infection which is best dealt with by a trip to your GP.
A visit to the pharmacy will usually start with a few questions, you can always ask to speak in a private area or the consult room if you wish. We want to be sure you are familiar with the condition (maybe have had before) and that it is not being confused with any other condition that could have more serious implications- loss of fertility being an example. Also if you have had more than one occurrence in the last 6 months we may suggest a visit to the GP to get checked out- to rule out other issues such as diabetes causing it. This would also apply to any abdominal pain or excessive menstrual bleeding (periods). We’d also like to know if you are pregnant or breast-feeding that this will affect treatment options
There are OTC of over-the-counter treatments easily available and suitable for those in the age range 16-60. See our treatments page for more information on the choices available. Fluconazole 150mg is an oral drug (capsule) which is just taken as a “one-off”. Usually very effective (about 80% successful) if it does not offer relief it may be because the organism is resistant to this anti-fungal agent. Other oral treatments are prescription-only.
Branded products such as Canesten are generally more expensive than the generic (unbranded drugs) like Fluconazole or Clotrimazole but they do offer a wide range of options and user confidence.
There are pessaries and internal creams (inserted like a Tampax with applicator) which some women prefer and creams which can be applied externally and can also be used for any male partners who are showing symptoms of the condition. Discuss these with your pharmacist to make sure you get the right one as some of these creams are more designed for other fungal skin infections and can be of lower strength and hence will only treat the itch not the cause.
Other useful tips are to wear looser clothing of natural fabric (the fungus loves a warm moist area!) Natural live yoghurt used to be suggested but there is little supported evidence and tea tree oil whilst it is anti-fungal would probably cause too much sensitivity in this area. This also applies to soaps and shower-gels etc. as they can be too perfumed.
There are some newer drugs being used for recurrent bouts of thrush (which always need to be referred to your GP) that are not anti-fungal e.g. Cetirizine usually used as an antihistamine and Zafirlukast. 30% of women with recurrent episodes have responded to these drugs as there is thought to be a possible allergic element.