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Let’s talk honestly about thrush

Symptoms, causes, and treatment of vaginal thrush

 

Here’s something heartbreaking: women’s health issues often aren’t taken seriously.

You won’t catch me speaking badly about the health profession often. Doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and allied health workers are the backbone of a healthy, fair society. The pandemic has only made clear what has always been the case: we need to honour and support those who keep us fit as a fiddle.

But (and it’s a big but) as a profession we haven’t always listened to women, supported women, and spoken seriously, directly, and honestly about women’s health concerns. 

‘Unfortunately, there are still big gender biases in health care,’ says Dr Hermina Mieres, speaking to the Katz Institute for Women’s Health. ‘Over the last couple decades, science and evidence have emerged to show how sex and gender impact various diseases—yet our health care delivery model lags behind.’

Gabrielle Levy puts it bluntly: ‘Modern medical research has historically centered on men’s health, by tradition and by statute.’

One of the impacts of this is that it can be difficult to get accurate, healthy, and honest information about key health concerns. Sometimes, this can have dire impacts on the health of women. In other instances, it can lead to women living with chronic pain conditions, their concerns waved away with a dismissive comment or simply not believed. 

In the case of thrush, it can lead to a sense of discomfort and stigma. 

What is thrush?

Vaginal thrush is an infection caused by the yeast candida albicans. Thrush can cause vaginal discomfort, swelling and soreness in the skin, pain while having sex or urinating, and – in some instances – may be accompanied by a white discharge.

If you suspect that you have vaginal thrush, you should speak to a trusted medical professional to get a diagnosis and discuss your treatement options, which may include a topical cream such as Canesten thrush cream. Speaking to a doctor will also help you to rule out other issues. This is particularly important if you have recurrent thrush, have had sex with a new partner without a condom, have sought to self-manage thrush without the desired results, and have other symptoms associated with a sexually transmitted infection or another underlying health condition.

What causes thrush?

Your body naturally contains a healthy amount of yeast. A thrust infection occurs when this yeast grows effectively. If you have a weakened immune system, you may be more susceptible to thrush. There is also a strong connection between antibiotic use and thrush; this has been well-established in research.

Myths about thrush

Unfortunately, there are many myths about thrush that can cause a significant amount of awkwardness, anxiety, and even shame. Many people feel a level of discomfort regarding thrush, and studies have suggested that they can feel embarrassed or stigmatised by the condition. Myths about any medical condition are harmful because they can delay people from getting the medical help that they need. 

Myth 1: Thrush is relatively uncommon.

Some people seem to think that relatively few women – and only certain ‘types’ of women – get thrush. This is simply not the case. Three-quarters of women will have vaginal thrush at some point in their lives. Importantly, thrush can occur in other parts of the body. The fungus that causes the infection grows in warm, moist parts of the body, so thrush can appear around the groin, on the penis, or in the mouth. Far from being an embarrassing and unusual condition, thrush is actually very common.

Myth 2: Thrush is a sexually transmitted infection.

This common myth is easily debunked. Firstly, thrush is caused by the growth of a fungus that is naturally found in your body. In other words, thrush isn’t something that you catch from someone like you might catch a cold. Secondly, people who are not sexually active can develop thrush, and there is some suggestion that you are more likely to develop thrush the less sexually active you are.

Of course, there is nothing shameful about developing an STI, but we need to use labels with precision and clarity. Here’s the cold, hard truth: the STI shoe simply does not fit on the thrush foot.

Myth 3: Thrush is caused by poor hygiene.

Yikes. This is a very damaging myth — and it very much is a myth! I shudder when I think about how much undue shame and embarrassment this terrible piece of misinformation has caused. Let me be very clear: thrush is not caused by poor hygiene. It is not a result of being ‘dirty’.

That said, there is a connection between thrush and your personal cleaning habits – it just isn’t the connection that you might expect. While there is no evidence to suggest that vaginal thrush is caused by poor hygiene, it is important to know how to best keep your vagina clean. Excessive washing and rinsing, especially with scented soaps and bubble bath formula, can upset the balanced conditions of your vagina and lead to thrush.

Treating thrush

Thrush can be treated with a topical medicine like Canesten thrush cream. These pharmacy-only medications are fast working, easy to apply, and can provide effective relief from the symptoms of thrush but targetting key underlying causes. Canesten thrush cream is Australia’s most trusted thrush treatment brand, meaning that you get both effective relief and peace of mind.

Canesten thrush cream is:

  • Effective with an active ingredient that has been tested in clinical settings
  • Trusted, coming from a company with a track record of producing high-quality products to help women manage their health concerns
  • Conveniently diverse, coming in a range of forms and products to suit your specific preferences and needs.

Instead of Canesten thrush cream, your doctor might suggest an oral treatment. This treatment can be less cost-effective and may interfere with other medications, so make sure that you discuss this treatment with your doctor. 

Preventing thrush

To avoid thrush in the future, you might consider implementing a few small changes to make a big difference. For example, ensuring that you always wipe from front to back after going to the toilet can reduce the chance of spreading infection. You might also consider switching out fragrant soaps for a substitute when you wash your genitals or replacing scented toilet paper with something more gentle and bland. Yes — sometimes, bland is good!

 

https://www.northwell.edu/katz-institute-for-womens-health/articles/gaslighting-in-womens-health

https://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2018-04-20/why-women-struggle-to-get-doctors-to-believe-them

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/vaginal-thrush

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/vaginal-thrush

https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/vulva-vagina/vulva-vagina-problems/thrush-candida