What is Thrush and Have I Got It?
In my daily practice as a pharmacist, I encounter many women, who are seeking to buy products for feminine itching. Like many other pharmacists I certainly agree that this issue can be embarrassing for females to discuss, especially with a male pharmacist. I feel this is where your online pharmacy PharmacyKwik, really comes into its own. You can bypass those potentially embarrassing conversations and get right down to the treatment options and if you do wish to speak to a pharmacist for guidance or clarification, you can either give us a call or simply click on the online chat function.
Vaginal Candidiasis (Thrush) is a very common condition, which can be found to manifest women of child bearing age. Pregnancy and diabetes are strong predisposing factors, in other words if you are pregnant or suffer from diabetes, it can increase your chances of getting thrush.
I sometimes get patients asking for thrush treatment who are less than sixteen years of age or who are over 60 years of age. Unfortunately thrush treatment cannot be recommended or sold to this demographic of patient, instead a referral to the GP is made. I will explain why:
Thrush is very rare in children and women over sixty because of the different environment in the vagina. Compared to women of child bearing age, where vaginal pH is generally acidic (LOW pH) and contains glycogen (a source of glucose sugar), the vaginal environment of children and menopausal women tends to be alkaline (HIGH pH) and DOES NOT contain large amounts of glycogen. Oestrogen, which is present between adolescence and the menopause, leads to the availability of glycogen in the vagina and also contributes to the development of a protective barrier layer on the walls of the vagina. In children and postmenopausal women there is a lack of oestrogen, which means this protective barrier is not present which means that infections tend to be bacterial and not fungal. So any vaginal irritation in this demographic could require a course of antibiotics.
Symptoms of Thrush.
Many women will experience an itch around or in the vagina. The itch associated with thrush is quite often intense and burning. Vaginal skin may become damaged and red raw from scratching when the itch is really bad.
There is also a discharge associated with thrush. Women of child earing age naturally produce a watery discharge and cervical mucus is also produced. The consistency of the cervical mucus changes at particular times in the menstrual cycle. These natural fluids can be watery or slightly thicker, with no associated odour.
A lot of women I speak to worry about these natural secretions as they think they have an infection – this is not the case. With thrush the vaginal discharge is classically cream colourless, thick and curdy in appearance, alternatively it could also be thin and rather watery. We need to be careful here as there are other vaginal infections that could be responsible for producing discharge but these are quite different from that caused by thrush. Discharge associated with thrush does not usually produce an unpleasant odour, bacterial vaginal infections do! If you have a discharge, which has an odour or is yellow or greenish in colour is more likely to be bacterial and needs to be checked by your GP.
Your partner could get thrush too...
Men can also get thrush but may not display any symptoms. Typical symptoms that men could experience include an irritating, itchy rash on the penis particularly on the glans (the ‘head’ of the penis).
Pain when passing water:
This is medically known as Dysuria. Dysuria MAY be present with thrush but I believe that scratching the skin because of the intense itching may be responsible for causing the pain when passing water. It is very easy to mistake this particular symptom with the symptoms of cystitis but cystitis has other symptoms, which you can read about on another blog.
This is medically known as Dyspareunia. Painful sex can be associated with most vaginal infections or if the vulval and vaginal areas are suffering from a sensitivity reaction.
If you have a history of thrush….
Many women that present at the pharmacy suffer from recurrent thrush, often following a course of antibiotic treatment. I would class recurrent infections of thrush as four or more episodes of thrush per year, that’s two episodes of thrush in six months. If you fall in to this category then I would highly recommend that you speak to your GP as recurrent thrush infects MAY indicate an underlying issue and the GP is better placed to investigate further.
In pregnancy approximately one in five women will have an episode of thrush. This is due to the hormonal changes, which change the conditions in the vagina. This altered vaginal environment leads to an increase in the amount of glycogen (a sugar source that candida fungus uses to survive and grow). If you are pregnant and are suffering with thrush type symptoms, you should see your GP.
Candida fungus (the fungus responsible for thrush) is able to more easily grow in those women who suffer from diabetes because of the higher levels of glucose in the blood and tissues. Sometimes recurrent thrush can be a sign of undiagnosed diabetes OR poorly controlled diabetes.
If you are taking certain medicines, this can also pre-dispose you to getting thrush infections. I’ve already mentioned that antibiotics can cause thrush, other medicines/conditions that can increase your risk of thrush infection include: steroids, if you are immunocompromised (have HIV or AIDS), patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy.
If you have the following symptoms you need to speak your doctor:
- If you are allergic to certain antifungal medicines.
- If you are pregnant or think you are pregnant.
- If you have had more than two episodes of thrush in the last six months.
- If you have a history of sexually transmitted diseases.
- If you have been exposed to a partner with a sexually transmitted disease.
- If you are younger than 16 or over 60 years of age.
- If you have abnormal or irregular vaginal bleeding.
- Any blood present in your vaginal discharge.
- Vulval or vaginal sores, ulcers or blisters.
- Abdominal pain or pain when you urinate.
- If you experience no improvement within seven days of treatment.
What products can I buy/use to treat thrush?
There are many products available depending on the syptoms you are suffering from.
If symptoms are external and are limited to just an intense itch, then using Canesten Thrush cream 2% or the generic equivalent will suffice. You have to apply the cream to the affected areas two to three times daily until the redness and itch disappears and I also recommend that you should continue to use the cream for up to TEN days after the problem is resolved. This will make sure that all the fungal spores have died.
If you have the external itching and discharge then you have BOTH internal and external symptoms of thrush, you should use the antifungal Canesten Thrush Cream (or its generic equivalent) AND you should take an oral Canesten capsule. There is also a generic thrush capsule available here at PharmacyKwik. Symptoms should disappear within 48-72 hours. Single oral treatment capsules are the most convenient forms of treatment.
There is even a pessary, which can be used to help with external symptoms of thrush.
Please have a look at the Canesten products available on our website. There are even combination products, such as Canesten Combi (which contains a pessary and a cream), Canesten Duo (which contains an oral capsule and a cream for external symptoms), for external symptoms, Canesten Trush Cream is all you need. Don't forget your partner, he may need cream and a an oral capsule.
Don’t forget we also stock the generic capsule, cream and even a generic pessary for the treatment of thrush.
Thrush really thrives in warm environments. Therefore I always recommend to women who are prone to attacks of thrush to avoid wearing nylon underwear and tights. Using cotton underwear instead may help to prevent future attacks.
Also women need to be mindful that the protective lining of the vagina is stripped away by foam baths, soaps and douches and I always state that these should be avoided.
Candida (Thrush) can be transferred from the bowel when wiping the back passage after a bowel movement. Wiping from front to back can help prevent this.
Now that you are armed with all the information to make a more informed decision, why not buy online and spare yourself those embarrassing questions. Remember that we deliver your purchases ‘kwik’ to your door.