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Tuesday, 30 October 2018 08:36

Thrush Featured

Just because it itches - it doesn't mean it's thrush!

Itching of the vulva and around the vagina is a very common symptom in women of all ages with about 10% of women seeing a doctor at some stage about a persistent itch. Many more probably are unseen and often self treat for years with variable success.

On one of the more common strategies is to assume that the itch is due to a thrush (Candida) infection and then treating with over-the-counter vaginal creams. However, it is important to realise that often this is not the cause so if the creams do not immediately work or only partially help, it is wise to see your doctor.

Thrush is rare before the start of a girl’s periods. Also, after the menopause, it is very uncommon unless you are taking hormone replacement therapy. The yeast thrives in the high oestrogen environment of the reproductive years. It is especially common in pregnancy but less so while breast-feeding.

A very common cause of a persistent itch is dermatitis of the area caused by irritation or allergy. After the menopause it can also be due to dryness and thinning of the skin. Other infections such as trichomonas and herpes can cause itch or irritation. There are also some rare but important skin conditions that occur specifically in the vulval area such as lichen sclerosus and a medical assessment is essential.

All of these alternative diagnoses for vulval itch can be well treated and the persistent intermittent use of anti-thrush creams without a medical assessment should be avoided. An excellent on-line article about this issue and maintaining good vulval health can be found here:

https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/vulva-vagina-ovaries-uterus/vulva-vaginal-irritation

There is a saying in medicine that “more problems are missed by not looking than not knowing”. So if you have problems with itching or irritation: consult your doctor. A good GP will always ask to examine the area and take appropriate tests rather than just sending you off for yet more thrush creams from the pharmacy.

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