Vaginal thrush

Vaginal thrush infections are common. Three out of every four women are affected by them at least once in their lives. They are usually yeast infections. Discharge, itching and burning in the vagina are typical symptoms. Antifungal medication, known as antimycotics, usually heals a vaginal fungal infection without difficulty in a few days.

The mucous membrane of the vagina is usually well protected against fungal infections. Lactic acid bacteria guarantee an acidic environment in the vaginal mucous membrane. This controls the growth of fungi which are naturally present in the vagina in small amounts. If this natural protective mechanism is affected, this can lead to an infection with marked growth of the fungus. The following factors in particular can facilitate the development of a vaginal fungal infection:

  • Antibiotic treatment
  • Mechanical irritation through tampons or vaginal diaphragms
  • Excessive intimate hygiene
  • Pregnancy
  • Lack of oestrogen
  • Disorders of the immune system, diabetes mellitus

A yeast infection (candida albicans) is usually responsible for the vaginal fungal infection. It is also known under the other name of candidosis.

Intestinal bacteria such as E.coli and skin bacteria such as staphylococci are mainly responsible for bacterial infections. Bacterial infections are discussed in the vaginitis section.

A vaginal fungal infection can initially cause unspecific symptoms or even no symptoms at all. Itching, burning and discharge can be signs of a vaginal fungal infection. The discharge is typically whitish-yellow in colour, rather crumbly and odour-neutral. You can find more on vaginal discharge, i.e. fluor vaginalis, in the vaginal discharge section. Sometimes a whitish coating forms on the vaginal mucous membrane. Sometimes vaginal thrush also causes problems during urination.

A gynaecological examination is carried out to diagnose a vaginal fungal infection. It is usually clear that it is a fungal infection due to the clinical symptoms. In unclear cases, a smear of the vaginal mucous membrane is taken to identify the pathogens.

A vaginal fungal infection is treated with antifungal medication, i.e. antimycotics. Ointments and pessaries are available for this purpose. One single dose is sufficient for mild cases. Vaginal thrush usually heals within a few days with the correct treatment. If the infection reoccurs or is chronic, doctors recommend treating the sexual partner.

You can prevent a vaginal fungal infection with correct toilet hygiene. Always wipe from front to back and not the other way around. The genital area should be washed with a ph-neutral soap which does not upset the protective acidic environment. Special genital lotions containing lactic acid are available for intimate hygiene. During an antibiotic treatment, vaginal pessaries containing lactic acid can be used as a preventative measure.