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What causes vaginal thrush?

2-minute read

Candida albicans is a fungus that exists naturally in the vagina, mouth, bowel and elsewhere. Normally, it causes no problems. But in some circumstances, the balance of normal bacteria and fungi in the body changes, making conditions favourable for Candida organisms to multiply and cause symptoms. This is called thrush.

This can happen:

  • when taking antibiotics; these upset the normal balance of bacteria on the skin and in the body
  • during a period, or in pregnancy, when hormonal changes make the vagina more prone to thrush
  • in people with certain other illnesses, such as diabetes or a poorly functioning immune system.

You should see a doctor if:

  • this is the first time you’ve had symptoms of thrush
  • you are aged under 16 or over 60
  • you’ve had thrush in the previous six months and treated it successfully
  • you’ve had thrush in the past and it’s been difficult to treat, or you have reacted badly to anti fungal medicine
  • you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • you have a smelly discharge, sores on the skin around the vagina, abnormal vaginal bleeding or pain in the tummy
  • you are worried you or your partner could have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • your symptoms don't improve after 7 to 14 days of treatment.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your vaginal thrush, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).



Sources:

NHS Choices (Vaginal thrush), SA Health (Thrush - including symptoms, treatment and prevention)

Last reviewed: September 2017

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