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Candida (thrush) in women

What is candida?

  • Candidiasis (thrush) is a common condition caused by a fungal or yeast like organism called Candida albicans
  • Candida naturally lives in the bowel, vagina and rectum.
  • It normally causes no problems and is kept in check by the body’s immune system and ‘good’ bacteria present in the vagina called lactobacilli.
  • Sometimes this delicate balance in women is upset and an overgrowth of candida occurs leading to symptoms of ‘thrush’.
  • Candida is not usually sexually transmitted.

How common is candida?

  • Candidiasis is very common in women – most women experience thrush at least once in their life but a few may get recurrent episodes.

How do you catch candida?

  • Women don’t catch candida – it is an overgrowth of a fungus naturally present in the body.
  • Specific factors or triggers often lead to symptoms of thrush:
    • Antibiotics
    • Steroids e.g. prednisolone
    • Douching
    • Use of irritant skin products such as bubble baths, shower gels, perfumed soap, Dettol or other antiseptics and feminine cleaning products.
    • Diabetes
    • Pregnancy
    • Conditions that effect the immune system including HIV
    • Menopause

What would I notice if I had candida?

  • Itching, soreness and redness around the vulva (vaginal lips) and vagina.
  • Pain or burning on passing urine.
  • Pain or discomfort / dryness on having sex.
  • A thick white discharge often described as like ‘cottage cheese’.

How do I get tested for candida?

  • A vaginal swab – at the Wolverton we can confirm directly under the microscope; it is also sent to the laboratory for culture.
  • The final culture result is available in 4 days.

How is candida treated?

  • An antifungal pessary (CLOTRIMAZOLE 500mg single dose) inserted into the vagina at night and 1% CLOTRIMAZOLE cream applied externally twice daily.


  • FLUCONAZOLE 150mg capsule single dose by mouth.
  • Avoid all soaps, shower gels and bubble baths and use aqueous cream to wash with instead.
  • Some women will need a longer course of treatment – your doctor will advise you.
  • Pessaries and creams can weaken rubber condoms – if necessary avoid sex during treatment to prevent pregnancy.
  • All treatments from the Wolverton Centre are free and are given to you directly in the clinic.
  • Thrush treatments can also be bought over the counter in the chemist.

What about my partner?

  • Candida is not usually passed between partners.
  • Occasionally a male partner may be affected by candida and develop a rash on the head of the penis – this can be treated with clotrimazole cream. 

What problems can untreated candida lead to?

  • Candida if left will eventually clear up by itself.
  • It will not lead to any serious problems.
  • Candida is often picked up on a routine vaginal swab but treatment is only needed if you have symptoms.

Candida in pregnancy

  • Women often experience recurrent bouts of thrush during pregnancy.
  • Longer treatments may be needed.
  • Antifungal pessaries or 10% canesten vaginal cream are safe to use during pregnancy but you should avoid treatments by mouth e.g. fluconazole
  • Candida will not harm the baby.

Will candida come back again after treatment?

  • A few women may experience frequent bouts of thrush or it may seem difficult to clear up.
  • There are specialised clinics at the Wolverton Centre to manage women with recurrent or persistent thrush – ask the doctor or nurse at the Wolverton for a referral.

More information