Men’s thrush – causes and cures

Most people have a fungus know as candida albicans present in their bodies, which is usually kept under control by the body’s immune system and with a little help from what most people refer to as ‘good bacteria.’  But sometimes, these good bacteria stores can get depleted, allowing the candida albicans fungus to multiply rapidly and cause the fungal yeast infection commonly known as thrush.

But while thrush is frequently identified as a common condition that affects women, it can also affect men. In fact there are a few different causes of thrush in men and several methods of treating the infection.

Here is a handy guide to help you recognise the symptoms of thrush and take action.

What causes Thrush?

The candida albicans fungus occurs naturally in the warm and moist areas of the body, for example, inside the mouth and around the genital area.  Normally our immune systems can control this fungus, however, if our immune system is weakened, a yeast infection is more likely to develop. You are more likely to develop thrush if you have HIV, are obese and have large folds of skin where fungus can grow, or if you have type 1 and 2 diabetes.

Using perfumed shower gels and not drying your genitals properly after washing can also create warm and moist conditions candida albicans fungus thrives on.  This means men who have a foreskin may be more prone to developing thrush than men without. It is rare, but also worth noting that thrush can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, minus the use of a condom.

Symptoms

Some noticeable signs of thrush include:

  • Inflammation at the head of the penis
  • A smelly, lumpy white discharge
  • Red skin
  • An almost unbearable itchiness around the genital area
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain while passing urine

However, genital thrush in men does not always develop recognisable symptoms, so if you think you may have caught it from sexual intercourse, it is best to see that’s it treated as soon as possible.

If the thrush remains untreated, the infection can spread to your blood and internal organs, this is known as Invasive Candidiasis and it’s a serious medical condition that requires immediate hospitalisation to treat. Some of the symptoms of invasive thrush include a high fever, shivering, nausea and headaches.

Treatment

If you have never experienced thrush before it is advisable to see your GP to get it treated and to check that you haven’t mistaken a sexually transmitted infection for thrush.  However, if you have suffered with thrush before, there are several different treatment options available for you.

Anti fungal creams can treat male thrush effectively and are widely available. The cream is applied directly to the affected area two to three times a day, to cool the itchiness and kill the infection. After a week or so the symptoms should be gone, but it is recommended to keep applying the cream for another 5 or 6 days afterwards, to prevent the thrush from coming back. Men can also take a single-dose, anti-fungal capsule, which will kill any internal infection and reduce symptoms.

Corticosteroid cream can also be prescribed if the itching sensation is severe because the cream contains anti-inflammatory drugs. These should cure the infection after 14 days, but if the problem persists, see a doctor.

Avoid having sex while you are treating thrush, as you could pass the infection to your partner and back to you again. Always use a condom and if you think your partner may have caught it, get them to seek treatment too.

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