During a woman’s lifetime, it’s likely that she will suffer from vaginal thrush at least once; it is the most common form of yeast infection. For many however, it’s often more than that. That’s because the good bacteria that help to naturally clean and protect the vagina are very delicate, and easily thrown off balance by a number of external factors.
The first step in treating thrush is to ensure that it is, in fact, thrush that you’re suffering from. Most women will know the symptoms after the first time they get thrush: severe itching, swelling or redness of the vagina and surrounding area, and a whitish discharge that is normally noticeably thicker than usual. If you have completed a course of antibiotics, you may find that it causes thrush because the strength of the antibiotics can wipe out your body’s good bacteria, as well as the infection it has been prescribed for. Thrush can also be passed on and instigated through sex, although it isn’t a sexually transmitted disease.
There are a number of remedies for thrush, most of which will clear up mild cases very quickly. The most common cure is a combined pill and cream; the pill is taken orally and the cream is applied a couple of times daily to the affected areas to help soothe itching.
You can buy this cream and pill over the counter in a pharmacy, so you don’t have to go to the doctor. However, if your case of thrush is severe, you may need a prescription for a stronger pill or cream; the active ingredient in the cream is clotrimazole, and not all creams have the same effectiveness. Many people find that pharmacy own-brand creams are not as effective as branded creams, because of the lower levels of clotrimazole.
You can also buy pessaries, which are like pills that you place in your vagina just as you would a tampon. These can be effective as they work directly in the affected area, but using a cream as well will help to alleviate any external effects. There are also a number of natural remedies you can use to calm some of the effects of vaginal thrush, although the effectiveness of these hasn’t been fully tested. If you’re unsure of what to choose, ask your pharmacist, or have a look at advice from other people and doctors on the thrush section of the NHS site.
If you have recurring thrush – that is, at least once a month – which is hard to get rid of, then it’s important that you visit a doctor. They will then put you on a course of antibiotics which can last up to six months.
Whatever treatment you take, remember that there are steps you can take to prevent thrush as well: try to avoid wearing very tight underwear made of synthetic fibres, or washing with strongly scented or perfumed products, as these can change the balance of bacteria in your vagina, causing thrush. Simple steps like this can help in preventing recurring thrush attacks and alleviate the symptoms of vaginal thrush when undergoing treatment.
Written by Kat Kreatzer, an experienced blogger working in the health-care sector for several years