Thrush is a yeast infection commonly found in the mouth (oral thrush) and in the vagina. Breastfeeding mothers may also develop thrush on their nipples or within the milk ducts.
Oral thrush is also known as oral candidiasis and is caused by the Candida albicans fungus. Both genders may suffer from oral thrush but it is not contagious and cannot be passed on. It is commonly found in those wearing dentures because they can be hard to keep clean. In practice, some seventy per cent of denture wearers will experience oral thrush at some stage.
Oral thrush is particularly common in people who have a weakened immune system. For example, around 90 per cent of people with AIDS will, at some stage, suffer from oral thrush. People with diabetes are also more susceptible to oral thrush.
Symptoms include sore white patches that are found in the mouth and can be wiped off. There may be a burning, painful feeling on the tongue and a salty or bitter taste in the mouth. The inside of the mouth can also become red and sore. It can become difficult to swallow.
Treatment is usually effective and comes in a variety of forms, including creams, rinses, powders, tablets and lozenges.
Vaginal thrush is something many women will experience. While it is fairly harmless, it can be unpleasant and may recur. If you suffer from thrush more than four times in a year it is considered to be a recurrent or chronic infection.
Symptoms include soreness and itchiness at the vaginal entrance; a stinging feeling when urinating; and pain during sex. There may also be some vaginal discharge which ranges from watery and thin through to thick and white. It is usually odorless.
If the thrush is more severe, there may also be redness and swelling around the vagina, together with sores and skin cracks.
Mild symptoms can usually be tackled with a one day or three-day anti-thrush treatment which you can get from your GP or pharmacist. More severe cases may take longer to eliminate or may require medical intervention.
You should always visit your GP if it is your first case of thrush; if you are over 60 or under 16; or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Other reasons to see a doctor include lower abdominal pain, a blood-stained discharge or menstrual bleeding that is not normal for you. You should also consult a doctor if you have sores, if you have had two bouts of thrush within six months or if you or your partner has ever had a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Your doctor will want to know if the symptoms vary from previous occurrences; for example if the discharge smells or is a different colour. A return visit to the GP is also recommended if you have had an adverse reaction to the treatment or there is no improvement in your symptoms after seven to fourteen days.
There are a number of steps you can take to help prevent vaginal thrush. These include wearing cotton underwear and using non-perfumed soaps.