SAY GOODBYE TO THRUSH PERMANENTLY
My Weekly’s favourite GP from TV and radio writes for you
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