This condition, also known as thrush, is caused by an overgrowth of, or a reaction to, a yeast (a type of fungus) called Candida albicans. It is not a sexually transmissible infection. A range of factors can cause symptoms to develop. These factors include: • Antibiotics • Diabetes • Pregnancy • Severe infections • Hypersensitivity (allergy) • Underlying dermatitis or ulcers • Scratching • Tight clothing that promotes excessive sweating. Most women however, will develop ‘thrush’ without any identifiable cause. 80% of women will have thrush at some stage of their life.
The main symptoms are itching and irritation of the mucous membranes (lining) in the vaginal and vulval skin. There is a thick, white vaginal discharge and discomfort with sex and when urinating. Symptoms may be worse the week before your period or made worse by having sex. Men may have itching and redness, particularly on the head of the penis (balanitis). Sometimes, the itching is located in the groin.
Patients with vulvitis, vaginitis (inflammation of the vulva or vagina, respectively) or balanitis should be examined and have tests done. Other conditions that have the same symptoms as thrush, such as dermatitis, genital herpes or pubic lice, need to be excluded.
Candidiasis may be treated with antifungal creams, pessaries (tablets to insert into the vagina) or oral tablets. Partners don’t normally require treatment unless they have symptoms.