Candidiasis, commonly referred to as thrush, is an infection caused by an overgrowth of a species of yeasts called candida. There are a number of these candida yeasts and the most common of them is Candida albicans. Candidiasis can most commonly occur superficially, such as in oral thrush, vaginal thrush (vaginitis), or skin infections. It can also occur systemically, meaning in the blood and when this occurs, it can be a life-threatening condition. Candidiasis can occur in men and women. In this article, we will focus on when it occurs superficially in men and what to do if you are a man and you suspect that you may have candidiasis.
First, you need to know the types of thrush that can occur in men and what their symptoms are. There are three main types:
- Candida balanitis: This is where the yeast infects the head of the penis. Symptoms include smelly lumpy discharge, pain when urinating, pain during sex, difficulty retracting the foreskin of the penis, and inflammation of the head of the penis.
- Oral thrush: This is where the infection occurs inside the mouth. It causes cream-colored raised spots inside the mouth. The spots are usually painless and the tongue can take on a white furry appearance.
Candidal skin infection: This begins as a red bumpy rash that can occur anywhere on the skin where folds of skin come together including the armpits, the groin, the skin between your anus and your genitals, and between your fingers. After some time, the rash may scale over and start to produce a thick white substance.
If you have any of the symptoms described and you have no previous history of candidiasis (meaning you have not been previously diagnosed by a doctor), it is advisable that you seek medical attention. Go and see your GP. This is because although it may very well be candidiasis that you have, it may be caused by an underlying condition such as diabetes which needs to be ruled out. In addition, the symptoms may be the result of something else such as a bacterial skin infection. If on the other hand, you have a previous history of thrush, you do not need medical diagnosis and can go on to self-treat.
Thrush can easily be diagnosed by your GP or by a physician at your local sexual health clinic. All that is necessary is a physical examination of the area giving you the problem, whether that be your penis, your mouth, or some other area of your skin. Swabs may be taken for confirmation, but in most cases, the doctor will be able to confidently diagnose by physical exam only. You may need to undergo further tests if you keep getting reoccurring attacks of thrush, your symptoms do not go away despite receiving treatment or your symptoms are very severe.
Doctors recommend topical anti-fungal creams called topical imidazoles in the first instance. Examples of such creams include econazole, clotrimazole, miconazole, and ketoconazole. This can all be bought over the counter, without a prescription from your GP and they work by breaking down the cell wall of the fungal cells. If the infection does not clear up within 14 days, you may be advised to try fluconazole. This is available in tablet and cream form and again, does not require a prescription from your doctor. If it does not improve within 14 days of taking fluconazole, it is advisable that you seek medical attention. You may also need to see a skin specialist.
In the first instance, if you have thrush, you should avoid having sex until it has cleared up completely. This is simply because having sex can make it worse. In addition, you could just pass it on to your partner who could then re-infect you. Good hygiene is always a must but, during the infection phase, ensure that you wash regularly and avoid using perfumed soaps and shower gels on the infected areas as these will only cause irritation. Showers are preferable to baths during times of infection. To prevent further attacks, again,
- Good hygiene is a must.
- Use un-perfumed soaps and shower gels.
- Dry all areas thoroughly after washing.
- Wear condoms during sex.
- Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear to prevent moisture from building up around your penis and foreskin.