If you’re the owner of a vagina, you’ll know that dealing with a bout of thrush at some point during life is pretty much expected. For some women though it goes way beyond a bit of uncomfortable itchiness and recurrent thrush is a common occurrence.
According to a study by the University of Manchester, around 138 million women worldwide suffer from recurrent thrush – with that figure set to rise to an estimated 158 million by 2030, says Dr Riina Rautemaa-Richardson who is leading the research team.
Thrush is a fungal infection that’s caused by a group of yeasts called Candida. It mostly affects women in their 20s, 30s or during menopause, and develops in the vagina when the Candida multiplies. Symptoms of thrush can include itching, irritation, discharge, soreness and damage to the skin, with women describing it as “hell” when suffering with the symptoms on a regular basis.
How common is recurrent thrush?
Previous research has shown that 75% of women develop thrush at least once in their lifetime and over 6% of women suffer from recurrent episodes.
The new research is hoping to shine a light on thrush in the hope it will give women the confidence to talk openly about it and seek medical help for this highly treatable infection.
Dr Rautemaa-Richardson says that thrush can have a massive impact on a person’s quality of life, but it is often thought of as an embarrassing problem that women should accept, rather than a medical problem which needs to be dealt with properly. She believes much work needs to be done to educate both healthcare professionals and patients about the best way to do that.
“Recurrent vulvovaginal thrush is common, debilitating and complex. Myths, unnecessary worry and stigma are associated with it as medical professionals struggle to understand it,” she says.
How to treat recurrent thrush?
Thrush is generally treated with anti-fungal cream that’s applied to the vagina, vaginal pessaries or both. There is also a single dose oral tablet available, but the new research is demanding for a more thorough approach to treatment.
“Although thrush is treatable, it often reoccurs and there are often additional causes for the symptoms which all need to be addressed. Antifungal treatment is often only part of the solution,” says Dr Rautemaa-Richardson.
If you suspect that you're suffering from recurrent thrush, see your GP to discuss the most effective treatment.