What is thrush?

What is thrush?

Thrush is a yeast infection that usually affects women, but can occasionally affect men. It is very common and can keep coming back. Thrush is caused by a fungus called Candida which grows in warm, moist parts of the body such as the vagina, under a man’s foreskin and sometimes the mouth.

Thrush is not classed as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), although the irritation it causes can also affect your partner when you have sex. Some of the symptoms (signs) of thrush can be similar to those of other STIs.

What are the symptoms (signs) of thrush?

What are the symptoms (signs) of thrush?

Common symptoms of thrush are redness, itching, and discomfort in the genital area as well as pain or discomfort when having sex or peeing (urinating). Additional symptoms include;


  • Itching and irritation of the vulva (lips) or vagina
  • Thick white discharge – sometimes described as like “cottage cheese”


  • Difficulty in rolling the foreskin back
  • White, creamy substance under the foreskin
Treatment for thrush

Treatment for thrush

Treatment for thrush is through the use anti-fungal medication, which are available over-the-counter in pharmacies. This can take the form of a tablet you swallow, a pessary you insert into your vagina or an anti-fungal cream. Sometimes you will be prescribed a tablet and cream. Thrush should clear up within a week of taking the tablet or using the cream on a daily basis.

You don’t need to treat partners, unless they have symptoms.

Your GP or sexual health clinic can help identify if something is causing your thrush, such as your period or sex. They’ll recommend how often you should use treatment.

What should I do if I think I have thrush?

What should I do if I think I have thrush?

Thrush has very similar symptoms to a lot of sexually transmitted infections, so if you have had unprotected sex, or if this is your first time having thrush then we would recommend that you visit us. You can book an appointment or come to a walk in session.

If you have had thrush before and are certain that it is the cause of your discomfort then you can get medication over the counter at a pharmacy. Alternatively you can visit a Devon Sexual Health clinic to be assessed and discuss treatment.

How can I avoid getting thrush?

How can I avoid getting thrush?

To avoid getting thrush;

  • Don’t use perfumed soap or better still just wash your genital area with water
  • Wear loose fitting cotton underwear
  • Take showers instead of baths
  • Make sure that you dry your genital area properly
  • Don’t have sex until the thrush has cleared up
  • Ensure good blood sugar control if you have diabetes
How can we help you?

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Accessing our service during the COVID pandemic

How to access our service:

We have now implemented a telephone triage system for all of our clinics. This system will be in place for the duration of the pandemic. Please contact our services to access this triage system. Our central telephone number is 0300 303 3989.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus please do not attend the clinic. Clear advice for people with symptoms of coronavirus is available at nhs.uk/coronavirus .

Advice from our service:

We have updated information on the provision of routine contraception during this pandemic here.

More details on the fitting of LARCs (coils and implants) at our service can be found here

If you need the combined contraceptive pill please try (if you can) to get updated measurements of your height, weight and blood pressure before calling us.

There is also specific advice on coronavirus available for People Living with HIV here, and for pregnant women here

Self-requested Sexual Health screening by post is available for for under 25s only - more info here

For others with testing requirements please contact the service on 0300 303 3989.

Alternative provision:

Please be aware that we may have to cancel, rearrange or shut clinical services in response to changing clinical and staffing pressures created by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

If you are struggling to access sexual health services, alternatives may be available:

  • Emergency Contraception - at your local pharmacy - more info
  • Contraceptive pills and LARC procedures - obtained from your GP
  • HIV postal testing - available to at-risk groups for a small fee -  more info
  • HIV PEPSE - available via A+E departments - more info
  • Condoms by post (for gay and bisexual men only) - more info