healthy bytes: let’s talk about thrush
Squirming already? I know, I know, anything relevant to ‘yeast’ or ‘discharge’ or ‘vaginal irritation’ is unpleasant to read about. But the statistics say that at least 3 in 4 women will experience thrush at least once in their lives, with half of these suffering repeat infections. So if your best friend hasn’t had thrush before, chances are you will.
What is vaginal thrush?
Vaginal thrush is an infection of the genital area, caused by an overgrowth of a yeast called Candida albicans’. It sounds gross but in fact vaginal yeast is perfectly normal and necessary – it’s only when the level of yeast is too high that you can develop thrush. In the long-term thrush is mostly harmless, but in the short-term it can cause discomfort and even pain.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of thrush is irritation in the vaginal area – that means redness, swelling, itchiness and/or burning. Thrush is also associated with ‘cottage cheese’ discharge (ew!). BUT, all these symptoms are treatable!
How do you get thrush?
Yeast infections can be caused by different drugs (including antibiotics and the Pill), pregnancy, menstrual cycle changes, illness (including diabetes and iron deficiencies) and dryness in the vaginal area. And sometimes thrush happens just ’cause.
** Thrush is NOT a sexually transmitted infection. That said, I’ve heard too many stories of thrush being “caught” from partners who insist on scrubbing themselves clean just before sex. While thrush is predominantly a “girl thing”, be sure to communicate with your partner about anything he/she could do to minimise the risk. For example, soap residue can alter your vagina’s pH level and lead to unnecessary dryness, even if you aren’t the one who left it there!
Do you have to visit a doctor?
Firstly, any vaginal discomfort, irritation or abnormality should be checked out by a doctor. However, if you’re sure you have thrush – or if you’re extremely reluctant to book an appointment – there will be thrush creams available over the counter at your local pharmacy, with applicators included. If you have thrush, your symptoms should subside within a few days. Otherwise, suck it up and book that doctor’s appointment!
How can you prevent thrush?
Sometimes thrush just happens by itself, but here are some general tips for vaginal health:
- Don’t wash yourself with soap! If you insist on using a product, invest in a non-perfumed soap-free wash. And be gentle, i.e. no loofahs.
- Avoid perfumed toilet paper and menstrual products.
- Wash your clothes with mild detergents whenever possible.
- Wear cotton underwear, and no underwear at night. Let your body breathe.
- Avoid antibiotics whenever possible, as these can kill the good bacteria that prevent infections.
Share your own thrush tips below, if you dare!