Thrush, men 

Introduction 

Thrush

GP Dr Sarah Jarvis describes the symptoms of thrush, a yeast infection, and discusses who is most at risk and how it is treated.

Media last reviewed: 02/10/2013

Next review due: 02/10/2015

Types of thrush

Thrush can also affect the mouth, skin and, in women, the vagina.

The pages in this section are all about thrush in men, but we also have information on:

Penis health

All you need to know to keep your penis clean, healthy and fit for purpose

Thrush is a yeast infection caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. Both men and women can get thrush though it is more often associated with women.

The medical term for thrush is candidiasis.

What it looks like

In men it usually affects the head of the penis causing inflammation, a smelly lumpy discharge, and pain while passing urine. Read more about the symptoms of thrush.

It can also affect the skin, known as candidal skin infection, and the inside of the mouth, known as oral thrush.

Should I see a doctor?

If you suspect thrush for the first time it's best to see a doctor for a diagnosis.  This is because the symptoms can be similar to those of a sexually transmitted infection (STI).  Your GP will be able to tell the difference.

If you've had thrush before and you recognise the symptoms, you can treat it yourself with over-the-counter medication.

You should also visit your GP if you have a weakened immune system and you have thrush. This is because there is a risk that a thrush infection could progress to a more serious case of invasive candidiasis. See complications of thrush  for more information.

Treating and preventing thrush

You can treat thrush without prescription medications. For thrush affecting your penis ask your chemist for a tablet called fluconazole. For thrush infections in your groin or elsewhere the chemist can supply a cream or ointment.

It is possible for thrush to spread during sex, but it is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). However both sexual partners may need thrush treatment to prevent re-infection. Re-infection from a female partner is common. Seek advice about this from a pharmacist or your GP.

Not all cases are caused in this way and many cases develop in men and women who are not sexually active.

Read more about treating thrush.

You can help prevent thrush by cleaning your penis regularly and using a condom while having sex with your partner (if they have thrush).

Avoid using perfumed shower gels or soaps on your genitals, as they can cause irritation. Make sure you dry your penis properly after washing.

Wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear can help prevent moisture building up under your foreskin, which lowers the chances of the candida fungus multiplying. 

What causes thrush?

The fungus candida albicans occurs naturally in your body, particularly in warm, moist areas, such as inside the mouth and around the genitals.

It does not usually cause problems because it is kept under control by your immune system (the body’s natural defence against illness and infection) and other types of bacteria in the body.

However, certain conditions can cause the fungus to multiply and lead to infection. You are more likely to be at risk of thrush if:

  • you have a weakened immune system
  • are obese, with large rolls of skin (an environment where fungi can often thrive)
  • have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes – as the high levels of glucose associated with diabetes can encourage the fungus to breed; also, people with diabetes tend to sweat more creating a perfect breeding environment for the fungus

Read more about what causes thrush in men.

Page last reviewed: 11/06/2012

Next review due: 11/06/2014

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Comments

The 5 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Cooperd1972 said on 17 September 2012

I regularly used canesten for my recurrent thrush issues until the last bout (5 weeks ago). It did not help me in the slightest and that was after two weeks. My doc just scratched his head and could offer no advice so I panicked a bit. I took a chance and used proskin candida instead which is a way lot more expensive and it worked just like the canesten. I will say I still have loads left whereas with the canesten I only usually have a half a tube left.

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eddie864 said on 30 August 2012

I have type 2 diabetes and am currently suffering with penile thrush (again). I like to get onto it promptly as in the past it has lead to a very painful balanitis infection. I went into a Rowlands Pharmacy and the assistant wouldn't sell me Canestan cream as it was for me and not a female. However, she consulted the pharmacist who allowed the sale of any of their thrush products for me. Mind you the price is very high so I'm hoping my GP will prescribe it for me.

The generic single tablet was £7.50 and the cream was £5.50. The Canestan Duo pack was over £10. I didn't realise the fluconazole tablet was ok for men so I'm keen to see if the duo works faster!

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Srlmc said on 09 July 2012

Both these comments are, in my opinion, incorrect. My partner (Male) just went to Asda Pharmacy and got the oral tablet & cream for himself, and when asked if he had a partner he was given another cream & tablet duo. One for each of us.

Have done this before also with the roles reversed, myself going into Boots Pharmacy and getting some for myself (female) & getting one for him. No prescription.

Unless some pharmacies are different.

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DMac said on 13 June 2012

It is even more weird than bbjjbb suggests - women can buy 1% clotrimazole cream, whether specifically Canestan or an own brand, freely as long as the pharmacist is present but men may not buy it for their own use without consulting a doctor. A man can, however, buy it for a female partner!

I wonder what men may get up to with that cream that women are trusted to resist?

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bbjjbb said on 13 May 2012

"Most cases respond well to anti-fungal creams and ointments (topical anti-fungals), many of which are available at the pharmacist over the counter (i.e. you do not need a prescription)."

This information is out of date. MHRA do not licence eg. canesten for men and pharmacies will not allow purchase. There does not appear to be an alternative.

The makers of this cream do not seem to be aware that men might need something for thrush. Their website is totally devoted to thrush in women.

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