Vaginal thrush 

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 men, the head of the penis (glans).

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

Women's health 18-39

Healthy living advice for women aged 18-39 including real stories, fitness, diet, fertility and sexual health

Most women experience occasional bouts of a common yeast infection known as vaginal thrush.

It causes itching, irritation and swelling of the vagina and surrounding area, sometimes with a creamy white cottage cheese-like discharge.

Vaginal thrush is fairly harmless, but it can be uncomfortable. It can also keep returning  this is known as recurrent (or complicated) thrush.

Read more about the symptoms of vaginal thrush.

When to see your GP

If you display the symptoms of vaginal thrush for the very first time, it is recommended that you visit a GP, especially if you experience pain.

This is because the symptoms of vaginal thrush are sometimes similar to those of a number of skin conditions and, occasionally, a sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, your GP will be able to diagnose you correctly.

Your GP can take a swab to confirm whether or not you have vaginal thrush and prescribe the most suitable medication.

If you've had vaginal thrush diagnosed before and you recognise the symptoms, you can go directly to a pharmacy to buy anti-thrush medication over the counter.

Find your local pharmacy here.

However, if your thrush doesn't improve after treatment, or if you have frequent bouts (at least one every few months), you should return to your GP.

Read more about how vaginal thrush is diagnosed.

Why thrush happens

Thrush is a yeast infection, usually caused by a yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans.

Many women have Candida in their vagina without it causing any symptoms. Vaginal secretions and "friendly" vaginal bacteria keep the fungus under control. Problems arise when the natural balance in the vagina is upset and Candida multiplies.

Vaginal thrush isn't an STI, but it can sometimes be passed on to men during sex. This means that if you have thrush, it's best to avoid having sex until you've completed a course of treatment and the infection has cleared up. Thrush can also be triggered by sex, and this is more likely if you have trouble relaxing and producing lubrication during intercourse.

Read more about the causes of vaginal thrush and how thrush can be passed on through sex.

Treating thrush

In most cases, thrush can be easily treated with either a tablet that you take orally or anti-thrush pessaries, which are inserted into your vagina. Anti-thrush creams are also available, which you apply to the skin around the vagina to ease any soreness and itchiness. If you are using an antifungal tablet, you may prefer to use an ordinary emollient (moisturiser) near your vagina, as antifungal creams can sometimes cause irritation.

Anti-thrush remedies are available either on prescription from your GP or over the counter from a pharmacy.

Treatment works well for most women, and vaginal thrush usually clears up within a few days.

However, about 1 in 20 women may have recurrent thrush (4 or more episodes in a year). Around 1 in 100 women may have thrush almost constantly. In these instances, longer courses of treatment, for up to 6 months, may be needed.

Read more about treating thrush.

Who gets vaginal thrush?

Vaginal thrush is very common. Around three-quarters of women will have a bout of thrush at some point in their lives. Up to half of these will have thrush more than once.

Thrush most commonly affects women in their twenties and thirties. It is less common in girls who have not yet started their periods and women who have been through the menopause.

While any woman can experience a bout of thrush, you're particularly prone if you:

Read more about how to prevent vaginal thrush.

Thrush in pregnancy

You are more at risk of getting thrush while you're pregnant.

There is no evidence that thrush affects your chances of getting pregnant. It's important to note that if you have thrush while pregnant, it won't harm your unborn baby.

However, if you're pregnant or breastfeeding and you have thrush, you should avoid taking oral anti-thrush treatments. Instead, use intravaginal cream or pessaries, plus an anti-thrush cream if necessary.

Read more about thrush treatments in pregnancy.




Page last reviewed: 07/05/2014

Next review due: 07/05/2016

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Comments

The 34 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

auntyann said on 31 March 2014

During my recent bout of broad-spectrum antibiotic induced thrush, which was reluctant to respond to medication I eventually became sensitive to Canesten cream. I used Cervagyn. This is garlic and acidophilus powder in a personal lube cream, scented with rose oil. (It doesn't smell of garlic). Some people have reported a sting but this didn't sting me and I have sensitive skin. I found it effective at subduing symptoms of thrush and seeing them off towards the end of my attack. I would say Cervagyn is certainly worth a try. The other thing I used was Multi-gyn. This is an aloe vera gel which discourages thrush from adhering. It isn't a cure but it is certainly a very helpful supplement to use between applications of Canesten and for discouraging the recurrence of the symptoms of thrush. It singles very slightly upon application but this quickly goes off. It's probably best not to put shower gels or soap on the affected area and just use warm water but if you do feel you need to wash with something, the best thing is to use are pH neutral or slightly acidic products such as Dove (which isn't technically soap). I used a tiny speck of Lactacyd nowandagain and it didn't seem to have any adverse effects. I am now thrush-free but it did take three months of constant maintenance.

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auntyann said on 31 March 2014

One two-year bout of 'thrush' turned out to be a sensitivity to spermicidal gel which I was using with my diaphragm. My doctor recommended I discontinue the gel for four weeks and advised that if the symptoms didn't clear up that it wouldn't be the gel. Apparently sensitivity is not uncommon since it is quite a powerful chemical. However the symptoms did not go. Two years down the line I was forced to become celibate. Six weeks later my symptoms vanished. So if you have severe vagina irritation that does not respond to medication and you are using a spermicide - do stop using it for at least six weeks. It's well worth a try.

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trancetraveller said on 21 February 2014

I finally got rid of yeast infections when I stopped wearing tight jeans It thrives in a warm moist environment. Whenever I was at home I wore skirts with no underwear and if I had to go out skirts with no tights. Also only wear cotton underwear as nylon generates heat the ideal conditions for candida to grow Also don't use any soap (especially scented) when washing this area as this aggravates the soreness. Also remember to wipe from front to back when you go the loo, as candida from the bowel can re-infect you. Your partner needs to wear condoms too until you get rid of the infection as he'll get it too (men often don't have any symptoms) and then he'll pass it back to you. Vitamin E cream helps sooth the dryness and soreness of the condition without aggravating it further.

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boy wonder said on 13 January 2014

I've just visited the GP after trying over the counter products for a year. He wanted to give me a prescription for the same products I have already tried. I asked for a swab because I didn't want to waste anymore time. He didn't recognise that Candida could be in the bowel as well as the vagina. Worrying that! I'm also going through withdrawal from sugar and simple carbs as I think this will help in the long run. Less sugar will be beneficial to my health all round anyway.

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shanbhagg said on 28 December 2013

felt bit relief after reading comments that i am not only one who is suffering from this problem , i really was worried and finding what exactly is wrong with me .. many bad thoughts were running in my mind .. I am having vaginal thrush now since last 4 days .. after reading comments i thing i will try Felicity38 advice on thrush .. :)

I will have a good night sleep now .. :)

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GCrystal said on 08 December 2013

I tried inserting a clove of garlic into my vagina when I had thrush during pregnancy, on advice from a natural pregnancy book by Roberts & Naish. I left it there - can't remember how long. May've put it in a fine mesh/gauze bag on one occasion to be easily pulled out. It worked. I then worked on reducing sugar from my diet. The book advised cutting out even fresh fruit sugars but I didn't.

Have just washed and washed with ordinary gel handwash, as it's all I have. Used a cold flannel, repeatedly rinsing it, to reduce swelling and irritation. This worked a treat. Also this may sound strange but as I can't get to a chemist yet, I've used tampons to just wipe the stuff away. Inserting them, swooshing them around, pulling them out and disposing of them. That worked really well and instantly relieved irritation, as if the irritation was my body's way of saying it wanted clearing out. Like a sneeze means blow your nose.

Will try garlic tomorrow, maybe rose oil, lots of water to drink and earl grey tea, and maybe an over-the-counter remedy.

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sindy06 said on 25 October 2013

I suffered from this for one year but after listening some advise from my auntie I fully recovered now.

I bought a bottle of feminine wash (german brand) and use it daily during shower as well as before and after intercourse.

Additionally, i drink lots of warm water thoughtout the day

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janey37 said on 22 July 2013

I have suffered with vaginal thrush for years caused by diabetes. Have spent a fortune on canesten cream and fluconazole over the years. But always try and get them on prescription whenever possible. This year i finally got rid of the vaginal thrush after a 14 day course of fluconazole. Was so happy BUT have since developed oral thrush on and off for past four months plus feeling unwell and pain in upper right abdomen and awful nausea. All came to a head this weekend - ended up at A&E - had scans and every possible blood test. Results were all clear. Docs couldnt understand why i was so ill. Then i mentioned my ongoing oral thrush - doc said candida overgrowth can get into your system and inparticular your liver causing constant hangover type feeling and nausea and generally feeling unwell. I am so grateful that i dont have something v serious but cant believe that thrush can make you this ill. If you have recurring thrush please go to your GP to make sure it is being treated properly.now following a diet and taking antifungal medication.

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Linda31 said on 27 May 2013

I have suffered from thrush a lot over the years and it really gets you down and gets in the way of everyday life! Whichever type I seem to get the only thing that gets rid of it is for me is Itraconozole from the doctor and sometimes a long cause. I get the watery vaginal discharge and its sore and itchy and a real pain. After suffering with it over the bank holiday weekend I luckily had two Itaconozole tablets from a previous prescription so took them over two days. I still didn't feel right and today went to Holland and Barrett and bought mega Potency Acidophilus with Pectin. I have so far taken one and whether its actually the 'Itraconazole' that's worked or my mind is thinking these tablets are working I don't know but i am feeling a bit better! I will let you know how I go on these and if they help or not in the future! ! I'm going to continuously take them and see if the dreaded thrush dares to return!

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molliet said on 04 October 2012

thanks to felicity38 comment on this page i have got rid of my annoying thrush problem. Her helpful comment has really benefited me

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Ruth25 said on 14 June 2012

I had constant thrush for over a year and the medicines I was prescribed became less and less effective until they did nothing at all. I asked my doctor about changing my pill and she said there was no evidence that thrush had anything to do with the pill, but it was worth a try. I changed from Cilest to Geradel and my thrush was gone within a week. I was just annoyed that noone though of this before and I suffered for a year for no reason!

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fedupbloating said on 04 June 2012

I use to suffer continuously with thrush. Every time I had sex, drunk too much alcohol or used antibiotics. Now I rarely suffer as I have discovered the route cause.

I took a free candida test at fed up bloating and discovered I had a severe candida overgrowth that was not only causing me constant thrush but lots of other health problems too.

By following a candida diet for a few months my thrush attacks became less frequent and I felt much better in myself.

Unfortunately if your partner has a candida overgrowth too it can be passed back, so if they are reluctant to join you in your candida diet it may be best to use a condom as a precautionary measure to prevent thrush.

Alcohol no longer appears to be a problem in causing thrush since my diet, although I don't binge drink now.

I try to take antibiotics sparingly as it kills all the bacteria, good and bad. When I have taken them I always follow the course with a strong course of probiotics to put the good bacteria back and prevent thrush.

Hope this helps.

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littleicecube said on 25 May 2012

Beware of taking too much probiotic. While probiotics such as Alaczan may get rid of recurrent thrush it is possible to overdo it and end up with too many lactobacillus down there which is just as bad as having constant thrush (I know from personal experience!) and more difficult to overcome - google Cytolytic vaginosis

Consult your doctor, get them to test to see if it is indeed thrush. Then ask for maintenance treatment and insist on Fluconazone or other orally administered anti-fungals once a week for at least 6 months. The internal pessaries caused cervical erosion in my case (where some of the cervix surface was damaged). I saw a specialist who was so much more thorough than my GP and I would recommend the same to any woman who is living with the hell of constant vaginal pain/infection.

Don't self-medicate, find a specialist.

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ellie2114 said on 09 April 2012

hi,
im only 16 but i know i have some sort of vaginal infection, but i dont know if its thrush or not. I havn't told anyone and im to embarrised to go to the doctor.
My vagina smells and i have discharge coming out of it. I wash daily. Theres no chance it could be sexually transmitted because i've never had sex. Please help me! If anyone thinks they know what it is or knows any way i could get rid of it, i will be so thankful:)
Thankyou, ellie xx

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brandysnapper said on 29 January 2012

felt releived as to hear other people were worn out by the symptoms of thrush and that i wasnt a drama queen it does wear u out. i have had utis since august, wee-ing blood on 3 seperate occasions. it is nearly february and i feel so exhausted with all the cystitis attacks and the feeling of barbed wire being trapped under neath and pulling tight.i had all the std tests to make sure it wasnt them. last week in the walk in centre i finaly got an answer that it wasnt uti and that their was bacteria in my water even thoe it wasnt infected but that it must be fungal and it was thrush. hav no discharge no smell but very red and continously sore and pulling. i have been given cream and hoping it stops there. i am also going to my doctors to ask for a swab to make sure its the rite cream for the strain.

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Felicity38 said on 24 December 2011

Olive oil and coconut oil are great for vaginal thrush. I use proskin candida by mama nature which contains both of these oils plus manuka oil and tea tree oil. It is the only thrush treatment that has helped my in the last 10 years and it's great because I can use it daily to keep me from getting thrush again. I have recommended this great product to friends and family.

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User620001 said on 28 November 2011

Solution!!!!--------Hello Ladies, like yoursleves I was scouring the internet and at the GPs for answers. I went to the hospital to get a swab but yet I left with another round of pesseries. After many failed attempts with pesseries, creams and crying spells, I decided to go back to the doctors. What has worked for me is something called Nystatin Oral. It's an anti fungal medicine, which was prescribes and it's gotten rid of it. Probably a resistant strain was able to develop to which the creams and pessaries were not effective but only "calmed down" everything. Another reason could be that the yeast in your body has been thrown off balance. I've been infection free for almost 2-3 months now :D. I know it's a short time, but I used to get it from every month to every week, so it's definitely an improvement. I feel like for once I'm in control of my sex life and I am a bit more confident. Just thought I'd post up my progress to help others, I found that there were many questions with little answers. Hope this helps. It's a capsule you take 4 times a day for 7 days, similar to a course of anti-biotics but obviously its made for fungal infections. Also you can keep it away by showering everyday, cleaning all the parts known to carry Candida (yes your bum), wash your bits after sex, eating better and keeping everything dry in general. Really hope this helps cos I feel your pain immensely!!! xxx

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MissAlice said on 28 November 2011

Help!

Im 18 and on the combined pill im also a full time chef.
But my only problem is i keep getting thrush and i dont know why

i was daily, dont use perfumed stuff down below and very rarely wear tight clothing

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MissAlice said on 28 November 2011

Help!

Im 18 and on the combined pill im also a full time chef.
But my only problem is i keep getting thrush and i dont know why

i was daily, dont use perfumed stuff down below and very rarely wear tight clothing

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MissAlice said on 28 November 2011

Help!

Im 18 and on the combined pill im also a full time chef.
But my only problem is i keep getting thrush and i dont know why

i was daily, dont use perfumed stuff down below and very rarely wear tight clothing

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Andrea1974 said on 13 November 2011

Hi,

Please can someone help, Ive had Thrush now constantly for 10months, nothing is helping im always at the doctors with it, they have tried me on many different treatments, I am at my wits end now, im feed up with the doctors fobbing me off with more creams and tablets, I want it clearing up, i wouldnt mind even having it once or twice a year.

I have had thrush for most of my adult life (20+yrs) but this is the longest I had it, its really getting me down now, I have other problems down there and im feeling very unfeminine at the mo (very weak pelvic floor muscel).

I have tried all the natural remidies going aswell.

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Anonymous1992 said on 03 November 2011

Im wondering if anyone out there can help me.

Im 19 and think I have thrush for the first time due to swelling around my vaginal area which is very red and sore. I also am experiencing a burning pain when urinating.
I don't currently have the 'cottage cheese' like discharge yet, it's more of a brownish colour.

If this is thrush and it's left without seeing a doctor is this likely to clear up by its self?

Or would I be better off going to a pharmacy and buying some medication over the counter, as I am not keen on visiting the doctors at the best of times!

Any advice anyone can give me will be greatefully appreciated.

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hawkeyed said on 10 October 2011

I have had thrush for 10 (yes 10!) years now. I have had about 6 swabs taken over that time and each time I was told a course of canestan was what I needed - it never touches it.

I wanted to see a gynecologist, but my GP thinks theres not a lot he (or she) could do if the standard treatment doesn't work. In the meantime I continue to suffer itching and burning.

I am kind of resigned to the fact that this is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life, but hoping against hope that someone might have an answer?

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rankini said on 26 August 2011

I used to get thrush a lot in my twenties, believe tied up with the pill. In the end had to sit my tush in gentian violet, very old fashioned but finally did the trick. Off to see what modern medicine can do for bout caused by antibiotics

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scaraah said on 19 August 2011

I've been getting it on and off since i was a small child, most of the time if i drink one actimel drink every day then it stays away. Canestan doesn't work. Totally ruining my sex life at the moment. Try drinking the actimel though. Might try and cut out the cakes too...

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aph1500 said on 06 August 2011

Thrush has made my life a living hell. I've tried everything under the sun and absolutely nothing can cure what I have.

Before I went on the pill I had the occasional bout of thrush but it was always really easy to treat - I would take an oral anti fungal pill from the chemist and use some Canesten cream and it would go in a few days.

My GPs are utterly useless - they just kept prescribing my Canesten pessaries no matter how many times I told them they didn't work. I did countless 3-day courses of pessaries to no avail. I was in so much pain I even tried natural health remedies but they had no effect at all. I tried plain yoghurt. I tried everything under the sun to treat it. I had tests done to confirm it was in fact thrush and not something else and it was. But nothing worked.

Eventually, I had (what I thought was) a stroke of luck - one of my GPs was off sick and they had a stand in doctor to replace her for a few days. She was very helpful and prescribed me the mini pill as the estrogen in the combined pill can aggravate thrush apparently. She also prescribed me a different anti-fungal pill for 6 months, which worked so well for a few months. For the first time in years I was happy and pain free.

All was well until a few weeks ago when it returned. Now I'm at a complete loss of what to do. I'm in severe pain and I am extremely depressed. I don't think Ill bother going to my GP again as I know they will just prescribe Canesten but I don't know what else to do now. I've tried everything and it just keeps coming back...

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MelK said on 13 May 2011

It's good to know there are other medications out there that are actually working for people. When doctors prescribe over the counter creams I don't see any results, only worse symptoms. I eventually learned I needed to change what I was eating.

Sugar is not my friend, so I had to change my diet.

Then, I had severe problems with breatfeeding but I found some information on www.candidacounsel.com about thrush so I ended up using apple cider vinegar and grapefruit seed Thankfully that worked and I was able to breastfeed.

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Pussycatlover3 said on 17 April 2011

As the last commenter said, Biocare products are excellent for vaginal and bowel thrush.

I had vaginal thrush for 14 years and at times it was dreadful. I then came across some cream made by Biocare called Cervagyn. In those days it came with an applicator. It is made up of a range of bacteria naturally occurring in the body which kill thrush. When I used this, it cleared all symptoms within 24 hours. Since then I only had very very mild recurrences about every 18 months/two years and used the cream again.

Since then Biocare produced vaginal pessaries which worked equally as well.

I had to take repeated courses of antibiotics a few years ago because I had a chest infection and I developed bowel thrush which caused urticaria (hives) and dizziness, rectal bleeding and itching. I used a Biocare product called Replete which is a 6-month dose of natural bacteria taken over 7 days - and it cleared the thush immediately. I have used it several times after taking antibiotics.

I have also just used the Biocare pessaries and Cervagyn for the outer vaginal area again. The pessaries are slightly different now and the Cervagyn has no applicator but it worked very well for the outer area.

The reason some of the products on the market don't work is that there are several strains of thrush and they are aimed at the most common, Candida Albicans. However, the natural bacteria kills all strains.

Thrush lives on sugar. Keep off concentrated sugar such as in dried fruit (especially as it is fermented), Christmas cake, mince pies. Eat at least 30g of protein daily as this creates acidity in the body which kills thrush. Do not have a high carb diet as this raises blood sugar level. Try to limit sugar intake to 20g if thrush is bad. Try to keep carbs:protein equally balanced. Having a regular glass of wine helps as it reduces blood sugar and helps acidity - and a bottle if desperate!

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MMMWWW said on 13 March 2011

If you suffer from Thrush you should try taking a supplement called acidopholous, there are many brands available but bio-care is by far the best and strongest, it is a form of pro-biotoc and will help get rid of the yeast in your body that is the main cause of this problem. It is about £18 a pot so quite pricey but definitely worth it, please give it a go if you suffer from Thrush it could be the end to your problems.

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mademosielle said on 23 February 2011

I first suffered from thrush when I got pregnant and ever since then, i only suffer from thrush when i first get pregnant and to me thrush is like an early sign of pregnancy before i even do the test, except on one episode where it was triggered by antibiotics. i finished a course of antibiotics well over two weeks ago and I have doubts that this episode of thrush has anything to do with them. felt the symptoms last night and they got worse by the hour and now I have full blown thrush. Am worried i may be pregnanant again even though am on the coil. I felt the strings of my coil while washing and I wasn't even looking for them, that was before my period.

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sdlshim said on 10 February 2011

I am 41 and have suffered with thrush on and off over the years. I have just recently discovered that when I eat bread that makes the thrush flare up and become very painful,itchy and sore. So no more bread or yeast products for me I think. What we eat can have a detramental effect on our bodies, anything that i find seems to give an adverse reaction i cut out of my diet for a while then try again in a few weeks to see if it happens again, if it does then i will never eat it again.

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MorrisonM said on 24 November 2010

I have the same problem. I've had thrush for months now (and on and off since i was in my early 20s). I've taken the oral canestan tablet (in fact in the past I've taken two) and it does not help. I am now searching every web site I can find for some answers. My boyfriend and I are having sex but it is not enjoyable for me as it hurts and I bruise and cut very easily in my vaginal area.

I am now trying the candida diet - which is hard. I've only just started it a few days ago so no results yet.

It's such a horrible cycle. you get depressed and stressed because you have thrush - (and other symptoms associated with candida). Yet stress is what can feed it.

it's very unpleasant. It helps to know that I'm not suffering alone though.

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2004 said on 16 November 2010

iv had thrush since i was 17. im now 45. im now on a high dose of anti depressants. i dont cope with living alone. iv been to the drs everytime im in a relationship begging them to help but feel im being egnored and fobed off. everytime i go to my gp i get given canasten of other thrush treatment bit every time i have intercours i lay there trying 2 block out the itching and burning. iv just met a realy lovly man. i had sex with him twice..we met two yrs ago. i felt special but i no this isnt gona last. its tareing me apart and i dont no where to go for help. some1 out there must be suffering the same as me. i cant be the only one.

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Samphirem said on 10 August 2010

Yes, it's probably being passed between you constantly. You both need to have treatment at the same time.

Going to a GUM clinic means that they will test whether it is Candida Albicans. There are other varieties of Candida and some of these are not affected by some anti fungals, such as Canestan.

I had thrush for two years after a course of antibiotics and it made my life absolute hell. I was prescribed Canestan cream initially, but all this did was allow another drug resistant species of Candida to thrive.

In the end, I was treated with ketaconozole and I followed this by massive doses of probiotics taken orally. The doc saw some of these probiotics on a slide he took the following week!

Docs treat women as though the candida is just present in the vagina. It's often in the bowl and the mouth as well. Anti fungal pills do a better job than creams.

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