Thrush - Adult

What is it? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What is thrush in adults?

Thrush is a common yeast infection that affects around three-quarters of women at some time in their lives, and is particularly common in pregnancy. It affects the vagina, which harbours the yeast fungus that causes the infection when it's over-produced.

The yeast fungus is called Candida albicans, and it's kept under control by hormones and vaginal bacteria, but it can multiply when the natural balance of the conditions in the vagina are disturbed – such as in pregnancy. It's also more common amongst diabetics, people on antibiotics and anyone with a weakened immune system. About five per cent of women have repeated bouts of thrush, known as recurrent thrush, and few unfortunates have the condition almost all the time.

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Don't worry if you get thrush in pregnancy: it's irritating and uncomfortable, but won't harm you or your unborn baby.

Although thrush isn't a sexually transmitted infection (STI) it can be passed between partners during sex. You should avoid vaginal sex until treatment is complete. Circumcised men are less likely to pick thrush up.

Some adults can get oral thrush, also caused by Candida albicans, which is also found in the mouth, although oral thrush is more common in babies. People who are more likely to get it are those with compromised immune systems. It's more common, for instance, in diabetics and people with HIV and AIDS.

What are the symptoms of Thrush - Adult?

Symptoms are a cottage cheese-like discharge from the vagina, accompanied by itching and swelling of the vulva. The itching can be maddening and embarrassing. 

Because the symptoms of thrush are similar to some sexually transmitted infections (STIs), it's important you see your GP the first time you get thrush to get the condition properly diagnosed. 

After that, you'll probably be able to recognise symptoms yourself, although you should talk to your GP again if the thrush is recurrent (coming back every two to three months).

What are the treatments and remedies of Thrush - Adult?

You can buy thrush treatments, either in tablet or pessary form, from your chemist or on prescription from your GP. 

There are also creams you can get that are applied topically to soothe the itch. Thrush usually responds to treatment in a few days and, for most women, that's the end of the episode. 

If, however, you have recurrent thrush, you may need a course of prescribed treatment lasting for up to six months.

The treatment for breastfeeding mums is usually pessaries, as oral medication can pass to your baby via your breast milk, so is not recommended.

This guide 

The information in this Bounty A-Z of Family Health is not a substitute for an examination, diagnosis or treatment by a doctor, midwife, health visitor or any other qualified health professional. If in doubt, always speak to a doctor.

Bounty will not be held responsible or liable for any injury, loss, damage, or illness, however this occurs or appears, after using the information given on this website and in particular the A-Z of Family Health.

Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit hscni.net


Thrush - Adult