By Krishma Patel
A majority of women, from a young age, at some point in their lives have endured thrush but were too embarrassed to talk about it. They would rather choose to live in pain than consult a doctor – all because there is not much awareness regarding the disease. The stigma is still very real, but talking openly about sexual and reproductive health can go a long way to dismantling it, while equipping people to get the help they need.
Thrush in women is a fungal infection that grows in your vagina, mouth, throat, and other body parts. The overgrowth of a certain type of fungus called candida causes it.
Candida is a yeast that lives inside the body, in places like the mouth, throat, gut, vagina, and on your skin, causing no major problem. But sometimes, it multiplies if the environment in the vagina, mouth, or throat changes and falls in favor of its growth. This leads to an infection called candidiasis.
Here’s a small eye-opening fact: According to a research review by the University of Manchester, thrush is common in women to the extent that this distressing and recurring fungal infection affects about 138 million women. This wave of recurrent thrush in women is estimated to rise to about 158 million people by 2030.
It’s about time to break the silence and start talking about this painful infection in women. To take the initiative, we have listed below the most common types of thrush seen in women, ways to diagnose them, their treatment, and common ways of prevention.
1. Vaginal Thrush
Vaginal Thrush is an infection of the vagina or vulva and is commonly referred to as a vaginal yeast infection, vulvovaginal candidiasis, or candidal vaginitis.
To diagnose vaginal thrush, the healthcare professionals will take a small sample of your vaginal discharge and examine under a microscope or send it to a laboratory.
You can usually treat it with antifungal medicine. You can often apply antifungal medicine inside the vagina or consume a single dose of fluconazole.
If the infection is severe, won’t get any better, or keep coming back, you might need other treatments. These treatments will include taking doses of fluconazole or applying other medicines like boric acid, nystatin, or flucytosine inside your vagina.
Cotton underwears are a huge contribution to the prevention of yeast infection in women. Since certain antibiotics are a leading cause of vaginal candidiasis, take those medicines only and exactly as prescribed by your healthcare professional.
2. Oral Thrush
Oral Thrush is a yeast infection that is caused in the mouth. It causes white or yellowish bumps inside the inner cheeks and the tongue. These bumps usually go away with proper treatment.
This infection is mild and does not cause any major problems, but if you have a weak immune system, it can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious complications.
Your healthcare professional can diagnose oral thrush simply by looking inside your mouth or throat. Sometimes they will take a small sample from the mouth or throat and send it to the laboratory or examine it under a microscope.
Oral thrush treatment is done by antifungal medicines that include clotrimazole, miconazole, or nystatin which can be applied for 7 to 14 days to the inside of the mouth for mild oral thrush. For severe infections, fluconazole is taken by mouth or through a vein.
Oral cavity’s environment is pretty favorable for fungal growth. To prevent candida from overgrowth, you will need to maintain good oral hygiene and always brush your teeth and rinse your mouth after using inhaled corticosteroids.
3. Invasive Candidiasis
Unlike the candidiasis caused in the vagina or mouth, invasive candidiasis is a severe infection. Vaginal candidiasis and oral thrush are localized to one part of your body. In contrast, invasive candidiasis affects vital parts of your body like blood, heart, brain, eyes, bones, etc., and others.
Candida usually lives inside your body and your skin, causing no major problems. However, some patients fall at the line of massive risk if it enters the bloodstream or internal organs, causing an infection.
A candida bloodstream infection is also called candidemia and is the most common form of invasive candidiasis. Even in the United States, it is the most common cause of bloodstream infection in hospitalized patients.
Invasive candidiasis is diagnosed by your medical history, symptoms, physical examinations, and laboratory tests. Healthcare professionals may even take a blood sample or sample from the infected body site.
Your healthcare professional will recommend a specific type and dose of antifungal medication to treat invasive candidiasis depending on your age, immune status, location, and severity of the infection.
For most adults, the initial antifungal treatment is an echinocandin, caspofungin, micafungin, or anidulafungin given through the vein. Even fluconazole, amphotericin B, and other antifungal medications are recommended.
If you are at high risk for invasive candidiasis, your healthcare professional will recommend some antifungal medications.
Krishma Patel is the Co-founder and the Superintendent Pharmacist at MedsNow, an online pharmacy in the UK that provides health and wellness products and treatments along with free online consultations. She is passionate about showcasing the integral function community pharmacies can play in supporting the healthcare system and the NHS by providing patients with high quality, safe and discreet access to healthcare at their convenience. Along with being the co-founder of MedsNow, Krishma is also the Director and the Superintendent Pharmacist of Enimed Ltd., an independent pharmacy group comprising 32 branches.