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:
- Steroids e.g. prednisolone
- Use of irritant skin products such as bubble baths, shower gels, perfumed soap, Dettol or other antiseptics and feminine cleaning products.
- Conditions that effect the immune system including HIV
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.