- Thrush is a yeast infection caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called candida.
- Candida infections can occur in many different parts of your body, including your genitals.
- If you have genital thrush you may have no symptoms or you may have symptoms including an uncomfortable rash on your penis and genital area.
- Treatments include creams and sometimes pills, depending how severe your symptoms are.
- You can prevent thrush by practicing good hygiene.
What is thrush?
Thrush is an infection with a fungus. It is also known as a yeast infection. The fungus, called candida, occurs naturally in your body, particularly in warm, moist areas such as your mouth and genitals.
The information on this page is about thrush in and around the penis. For information about thrush infections of the groin go to our male groin - irritation and infection page.
Why did I get thrush?
Many people have a small amount of candida in their bodies and on their skin. This is normal. Candida does not usually cause problems because it is kept under control by your immune system and by other bacteria in your body. However, if you have skin irritation, are taking antibiotics or have a health condition, for example, poorly-controlled diabetes, the fungus may multiply, which can lead you to develop symptoms.
Candida is sometimes transmitted by sex but it isn’t considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
What are the symptoms of thrush in males?
The most common symptoms are:
- red rash on your genitals, mainly under the foreskin, which may be itchy
- small red spots on the head of your penis (glans)
- discharge from your penis
- pain when you pass urine
- difficultly pulling back your foreskin
- a 'cheese-like' substance that smells yeasty and sometimes collects under your foreskin
Thrush may also sometimes cause your foreskin to swell and crack. This might be caused by an allergy to the yeast.
You can also have a thrush infection under your foreskin without experiencing any symptoms.
CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.
How is thrush diagnosed in males?
Your doctor can diagnose thrush by examining your genitals. Sometimes you can have a swab taken to confirm that thrush is present.
How can I treat genital thrush?
If you have thrush in and around your penis, practising good hygiene can help you clear up the infection.
- Clean the infected area carefully, preferably in the shower rather than a bath. Make sure you dry the area well by patting it rather than rubbing it. This will help reduce the build-up of moisture in the area and make it more difficult for the fungus to survive.
- Don’t use sprays, soaps, oils, disinfectants, shower gels or deodorants around the affected area, as these can cause further irritation.
- Avoid sharing your towels.
- Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear to help to keep your genitals dry and cool and prevent the build-up of the fungus.
Your doctor or pharmacist may also recommend an anti-fungal cream. You should apply the cream to your genital area, including the penis and the region under the foreskin if you are uncircumcised. Make sure you follow the dosage directions on the patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine. A single-dose pill treatment is also available on prescription. See your doctor to discuss the best treatment option for you.
Can my female partner's thrush affect me?
If you have sex with a female partner who has thrush, your penis may develop sensitivity to the thrush in her vagina after sex. This will improve after your female partner takes treatment for thrush. Your sensitivity may also be relieved by hydrocortisone 1% cream.
If you are in pain, get advice on pain relief medicines you can take.
If these treatments don’t work or if you often get thrush, see a doctor as you may have other health problems or a drug-resistant type of candida. Your doctor may also test for sexually transmissible infections, which can cause similar symptoms.
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Last reviewed: May 2022