SAY GOOD­BYE TO THRUSH PER­MA­NENTLY

My Weekly’s favourite GP from TV and ra­dio writes for you

My Weekly - - Health - DR SARAHJARVIS

We all have tril­lions of germs liv­ing on and in­side us – with­out them we couldn’t even sur­vive! Many are “friendly” – help­ing us, for in­stance, to di­gest food.

Oth­ers can cause symp­toms rang­ing from thrush to life-threat­en­ing menin­gi­tis or sep­sis. In fact, the “un­friendly” germs and fungi that cause these live on us all the time – it’s just when they mul­ti­ply too much or in­vade deep in­side your body that they cause prob­lems.

Fun­gus in­fec­tions are com­mon: ath­lete’s foot and the ir­ri­tat­ing groin rash known as “jock itch” are both down to an over­growth of yeasts which love warm, moist, air­less en­vi­ron­ments.

The vagina is the per­fect place for thrush to thrive. Usu­ally your body’s im­mune sys­tem, along with friendly bac­te­ria, pre­vent yeast from tak­ing over. How­ever, if your im­mune sys­tem is weak­ened; if you take an­tibi­otics (which wipe out your good bac­te­ria); or if you’re preg­nant or have di­a­betes, you’re more likely to de­velop vag­i­nal thrush.

Symp­toms in­clude vag­i­nal itch­ing and sore­ness; creamy white dis­charge; red­ness around the vulva (the area out­side your vagina) and some­times pain when you make love or pass wa­ter. Symp­toms that may be more se­ri­ous and al­ways need check­ing out in­clude: blis­ters or a rash on the skin out­side the vagina; bleed­ing be­tween pe­ri­ods; dis­charge other than white/ cream; dis­charge with fever and feel­ing un­well, or with low tummy pain; and bleed­ing af­ter the menopause.

Treat­ments in­clude creams

BLEED­ING BE­TWEEN PE­RI­ODS, AF­TER IN­TI­MATE RE­LA­TIONS OR AF­TER THE MENOPAUSE AL­WAYS NEEDS CHECK­ING OUT PROMPTLY

EX­CES­SIVE WASH­ING, US­ING PER­FUMED SOAP, BUB­BLE BATH OR VAG­I­NAL DOUCHES IN­CREASES YOUR RISK OF THRUSH AND BV

and pes­saries in­serted into the vagina (of­ten a sin­gle pes­sary does the trick) or tablets by mouth, both from phar­ma­cists.

About 1 in 20 women with thrush has re­cur­rent in­fec­tions. If your symp­toms don’t set­tle with treat­ment, see your doc­tor, who may take a swab.

The most com­mon cause of vag­i­nal dis­charge is bac­te­rial vagi­nosis (BV). Up to 1 in 3 women prob­a­bly get BV at some point. As with thrush, BV hap­pens when the bal­ance of friendly germs in your vagina is dis­turbed – the num­ber of “good” lac­to­bacilli fall so the vagina is slightly more acidic. This lets anaer­o­bic germs that grow best away from air thrive.

Symp­toms in­clude watery whi­tish-grey dis­charge, which of­ten smells fishy and may be more pro­nounced af­ter sex. It may make sex un­com­fort­able but shouldn’t cause itch­ing, vag­i­nal bleed­ing or fever.

BV isn’t sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted, but is more likely if you’re sex­u­ally ac­tive. As with thrush, an­tibi­otics can change the bal­ance of healthy germs in your vagina.

Af­ter the menopause vag­i­nal dry­ness can lead to sore­ness and dis­charge that may be mis­taken for thrush or BV. Top­i­cal oe­stro­gen or non-hor­monal vag­i­nal mois­turis­ers of­ten work ef­fec­tively.

Too much wash­ing raises the risk of thrush and BV. Wash nether re­gions only once a day; use wa­ter, not soap. Wash­ing your hair in the bath means you sit in sham­poo so shower in­stead, or rinse hair in the sink.

Wear cot­ton knick­ers and floaty skirts rather than tight trousers or syn­thet­ics. An un­scented mois­turiser used daily out­side your vagina can pro­tect the skin. If you get re­cur­rent thrush, avoid fab­ric con­di­tioner.

Many women swear by live yo­gurt to cure thrush, eaten or ap­plied to the area. It does no harm, but we don’t have enough ev­i­dence to say it works! Next week: Af­ter breast can­cer

‘‘ WEAR LOOSE COT­TON KNICK­ERS AND FLOATY SKIRTS RATHER THAN TIGHT TROUSERS OR SYN­THETIC CLOTHES’’

Look­ing af­ter your­self is key to prevent­ing thrush

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