Yeast infection (also known as thrush) happen to the best of us. Here’s everything you need to know.
I recall having a yeast infection for the first time. My vulva was incredibly itchy while I was in my mid-teens at school. I’d excuse myself to go the restroom and perform the very typical act of photographing my vagina to figure out what was wrong. When I saw redness around my vagina and vulva, as well as a cottage cheese-like discharge, I became concerned. As most teens do, I turned to the internet for help, and the first thing that came up was that I had a STI. I didn’t tell anyone because I felt embarrassed. The first thing I did was make an appointment at my local sexual health clinic and begged the nurse to assist me.
I recall the nurse evaluating me and then laughing to herself. She informed me that thrush was not always transmitted through intercourse. She inquired as to whether I wore restrictive clothing or had changed my laundry powder. I informed her that I wore tights to school and regularly wore tight-fitting pants, and that it ached when I peed. She gave me a prescription for Canesten Duo and sent me on my way.
Despite the fact that I felt like I was the only one on the planet with this disease, I wasn’t. According to the University of Manchester, around 138 million women globally are infected by an unpleasant but curable fungal illness, and this figure is expected to climb to an estimated 158 million by 2030. Thrush affects 1.2 million women in the United Kingdom, and up to 75 out of 100 women in the United States will have a vaginal yeast infection at some point in their lives. “While it’s more common in people with vaginas, it can also affect those with penises,” says sex expert Madalaine Munro, “which causes pain when passing urine, difficulties pulling back the foreskin, thick discharge, and redness or irritation frequently at the head of the shaft, which is usually the site of infection.”
What exactly is a yeast infection? Causes and symptoms
According to the NHS website, painful swelling candidiasis infection, often known as thrush or a yeast infection, is caused by the proliferation of a fungus called candida and causes itching, irritation, discharge, pain, and skin damage. Other places of the skin that might be affected include the armpits, groyne, and between the fingers.
Despite its prevalence, discussing thrush is still frowned upon. When I informed my mother I had thrush after returning home from the sexual health clinic, she laughed and stated I had “too much sex.” I was surprised and embarrassed since I knew I hadn’t been. However, this is a frequent misconception since yeast infections are often stigmatised. “The taboo stems from a lack of proper sex education, a patriarchal society that stigmatises sex as a whole, and the societal fallout from religious teachings that may have demonised sex, which may perpetuate fear and misunderstanding about sexual health,” Munro adds.
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While sex can cause thrush, it is not the primary culprit. “Thrush is a common yeast infection caused by an increase in the growth of candida albicans, a common fungus,” explains Dr. Hlupekile Chipeta, clinical lead for gynaecology at Leeds NHS teaching hospitals and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists spokesman. “Antibiotics, which destroy friendly microorganisms that naturally reduce candida, can cause it. It primarily affects women, but males can be afflicted as well, and it can be spread from one to another through sexual intercourse. However, it is not considered a sexually transmitted illness.”
Thrush symptoms might worsen if left untreated. “Thrush is usually treated with an antifungal medication. This can be a tablet taken orally, a lotion, or a tablet put into the vagina known as a pessary, and it should clear up within 14 days “Chipeta continues.
Can you have sex when suffering from a yeast infection?
So, if you are sexually active, what does this mean? Can you have sex if you have thrush? “It might aggravate symptoms because physical contact, perspiration, heat, and movement may irritate the skin,” Munro explains. “Thrush is not a STI, but it can be caused during sex – this might be when someone is predisposed to thrush or has a compromised immune system.”
Alexa, 25, from London, UK, admits to having intercourse with her lover while suffering from thrush, but claims it was “scratchy.” “I suppose we simply didn’t realise it at the time and assumed we’d had too much sex, which occurs when you’re 18 and on vacation. We halted for a bit once I realised it was more than simply discomfort from too much sex “She continues.
Jess, 25, from Birmingham, UK, claimed she couldn’t shake a thrush infection while on vacation with her boyfriend and his family. “We ended up playing ‘thrush ping pong,’ as his mother termed it, since he kept giving it back to me. No one thought to advise him he should have applied the cream on his penis as well. When he did, everything became plain to me.” According to Chipeta, thrush can be transmitted through sexual intercourse. This is, however, unusual. “The NHS advises you to avoid penetrative and oral intercourse until you have finished your course of therapy and the infection has totally cleaned up.”