Thrush is a yeast infection caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. Both men and women can get thrush, though it is more often associated with women.

The medical term for thrush is candidiasis.

What it looks like

In men, it usually affects the head of the penis causing irritation, discharge and redness.

This is because the symptoms can be similar to those of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) . Your GP will be able to tell the difference.

If you've had thrush before and you recognise the symptoms, you can treat it yourself with over-the-counter medication.

You should also visit your GP if you have a weakened immune system and you have thrush.This is because there is a risk that a thrush infection could progress to a more serious case of invasive candidiasis. Read our page on the complications of thrush for more information about invasive candidiasis.

Treating andpreventingthrush

You can treat thrush without prescription medications. For thrush affecting yourpenis, ask yourchemist for clotrimazole cream or atablet called fluconazole. For thrush infections in your groin or elsewhere, the chemist can supply a cream.

It's possible for thrush to spread during sex, but it's not an STI.However, both sexual partners may need thrush treatment to prevent re-infection. Re-infection from a female partner is common. Seek advice from a pharmacist or your GP.

However, not all cases are caused by sex, and many cases develop in men and women who are not sexually active.

Make sure you dry your penis properly after washing.

Wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear can help prevent moisture building up under your foreskin, which lowers the chances of the candida fungus multiplying.

What causes thrush?

The fungus candida albicans occurs naturally inyour body, particularly in warm, moist areas, such as inside the mouth and around the genitals.

It does not usually cause problems because it is kept under control byyour immune system (the bodys natural defence against illness and infection) and other types of bacteria in the body.

However,certain conditions can cause the fungus to multiply and lead to infection. You are more likely to be at risk of thrush if:

  • you have a weakened immune system
  • are obese , with large rolls of skin (an environment where fungi can often thrive)
  • have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes as the high levels of glucose associated with diabetes can encourage the fungus to breed; people with diabetes also tend to sweat more, creating a perfect breeding environmentfor the fungus


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 5 Jan 2017