Vaginal thrush is another name for a vaginal yeast infection and we use the two terms interchangeably in this article. Other less common names for the disease are vaginal fungus and Candida vagina. The condition is caused by the Candida albicans species of yeast, a type of fungus. Candida occurs naturally in the vaginal area and is normally kept in check by mucus secretions, harmless bacteria and other fungal organisms that live on the skin and in the vagina. A thrush outbreak occurs if this balance is lost and there is an overgrowth of the Candida. The yeast multiplies, invades the vagina and can cause undesirable symptoms.
Vaginal yeast infection symptoms
Yeasts thrive in warm, moist conditions which is why Candida commonly affects the vagina in women. Thrush does not damage the vagina but it can cause itchiness, burning, discomfort and redness around the vulva (the outside part of the vagina). Some women also describe “biting pains” in the vagina and experience discomfort during sex. Although a creamy colored discharge is a commonly associated with thrush, there are other causes of vaginal discharge un-related to a Candida infection.
Causes of vagina yeast infection and diagnosis
Vaginal infections caused by Candida are very common – far more common than thrush in men. In fact it is estimated that more than half of all women have a thrush infection during their lifetimes. A thrush outbreak occurs when the natural defenses in the vagina are upset through the use of antibiotics and steroids as well as contact with chemicals and irritants. Diabetics, pregnant mothers and people with a weak immune system have a higher incidence rate. Women who wear tight-fitting synthetic underwear may also be more susceptible to vaginal yeast infections. Sex with an infected partner is one of the leading thrush causes. For a comprehensive look at the different risk factors, read this article on yeast infection causes.
Remember that the Candida yeast can live harmlessly in and around the skin of the vagina. Problems only occur if it multiplies rapidly to cause negative symptoms.
The diagnosis of vaginal yeast infection is normally carried out through analysis of symptoms and external signs of the infection. If needed, a health professional can take a swab sample and have this tested at a laboratory.
Vaginal thrush treatment
The most common treatments for vaginal yeast infections are topical (i.e. applied externally). These take the form of creams and pessaries inserted into the vagina with an applicator and rubbed onto the skin around the vulva. Most topical medications contain known anti-fungal and anti-yeast agents and many are available without a prescription. See these Monistat reviews for one of the most popular. Homeopathic sprays such as Yeastrol are popular and bring fast relief.
Some sufferers have had positive results from natural and home remedies for a vaginal thrush infection including yogurt, vinegar baths and tea tree oil. These are designed to restore the natural pH balance within and around the vagina and resolve most vaginal thrush symptoms. Side effects are rare with but it should be noted that these treatment types have not been tested clinically for the treatment of vaginal thrush or other fungal and yeast infections. Certain holistic approaches to treatment are clinically proven, such as this 5 step system to eliminating Candida overgrowth. It also makes sense to research anti Candida diets designed to reduce the intake of food types that encourage fungal and yeast growth. Read more on how to get rid of a yeast infection.
Oral medications in the form of tablets are also available on prescription as treatment for vaginal thrush. If you suspect a case of thrush, it always makes sense to discuss your condition with a doctor or health professional.