Thrush – types, symptoms, causes and associated risk factors

Thrush - Symptoms, Causes

There are two known types of thrush – vaginal and oral thrush.

Here are some characteristics of these thrush

Vaginal thrush:

This is a very common vaginal yeast infection which affects most women at some point of their lives. This is uncomfortable and unpleasant condition but usually this kind of infection can be treated with medicines which are prescribed from your doctor.

Symptoms of vaginal thrush: Here are the typical symptoms of vaginal thrush:

  • A stinging sensation when peeing
  • Pain during sex which may make worry you about having sex
  • Vaginal discharge – this is usually odorless and may be thick and white or thin and watery
  • Itching and soreness around the entrance of the vagina (itchy labia)

There are some cases in which the skin around the vagina can be cracked, swollen or red. Occasionally there can be sores on your skin but this is a more often a sign of genital herpes. If you have had thrush before and you think that you have it again, then you should visit your doctor and talk about the best natural treatments or medications for you.

Causes: This infection is caused by yeasts from a group of fungi which is called Candida. There are many women who have Candida in their vagina which is not causing them any problem. But if the Candida multiples and the natural balance of microorganisms in the vagina is disrupted, and then thrush can develop. [1,2]

Oral thrush:

This condition is also known as candidiasis. This is a condition in which the fungus Candida albicans accumulates on the lining of the mouth. Candida is a normal organism in our mouths but in some cases it can overgrow and cause symptoms. Oral thrush causes creamy white lesions usually on your inner cheeks or your tongue. In some cases this condition can spread to the back of your throat, your gums or tonsils or to the roof of your mouth. This condition can affect anyone but usually this condition is happening in babies, the elderly and in people with certain health conditions or with suppressed immune systems or it is happening to people who take some medications. If you are a healthy person, then this condition is a minor problem but if you have a weakened immune system, then the symptoms of this condition can be more severe and difficult to control. [1]

Thrush - Symptoms, Causes

Symptoms: Initially, some people may not even notice symptoms of oral thrush. Depending on the underlying cause and the signs and symptoms of this condition, it can develop slowly or suddenly and it can persist for days, weeks or months. Here are the signs and symptoms of oral thrush:

  • Loss of taste
  • A cottony feeling in your mouth
  • Cracking and redness at the corners of your mouth (especially in denture wearers)
  • Slight bleeding if the lesions are rubbed or scraped
  • Redness or soreness that may be severe enough to cause difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Slightly raised lesions with a cottage cheese – like appearance
  • Creamy white lesions on your tongue, inner cheeks and sometimes on the roof of your mouth, gums and tonsils

Women whose breasts are infected with candida may experience these signs and symptoms:

  • Stabbing pains deep within the breast
  • Unusual pain during nursing or painful nipples between feedings
  • Shiny or flaky skin on the darker, circular area around the nipple (areola)
  • Unusually red, sensitive, cracked or itchy nipples

Causes of thrush

Our immune system is working to protect us from invading organisms such as fungi, bacteria and viruses and also it tries to maintain a balance between bad and good microbes which normally inhabit our bodies. But in some cases these protective mechanisms can fail which is increasing the number of candida fungi and it is allowing an oral thrush infection to take hold. Oral thrush infection and other candida infections can happen when our immune system is weakened by some disease or drugs such as prednisone or when antibiotics are disturbing the natural balance of microorganisms in our bodies such as

  • Vaginal yeast infection [3]
  • Diabetes mellitus [4]
  • Cancer [5]
  • HIV/AIDS [6]

These conditions and diseases can make you more susceptible to thrush infection.


[1] Ghaddar N, Anastasiadis E, Halimeh R, et al. Prevalence and antifungal susceptibility of Candida albicans causing vaginal discharge among pregnant women in Lebanon. BMC Infectious Diseases. 2020.

[2] Jang SJ, Lee K, Kwon B, et al. Vaginal lactobacilli inhibit growth and hyphae formation of Candida albicans. Scientific Reports. 2019.

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaginal candidiasis. Retrieved from

[4] Rodrigues CF, Rodrigues ME, Henriques M. Candida sp. infections in patients with diabetes mellitus. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2019;8(1):76.

[5] Chung LM, Liang JA, Lin CL, et al. Cancer risk in patients with candidiasis: a nationwide population-based cohort study. Oncotarget. 2017;8(38):63562–73.

[6] Suryana K, Suharsono H, Antara IGPJ. Factors associated with oral candidiasis in people living with HIV/AIDS: A case control study. HIV/AIDS – Research and Palliative Care. 2020;12:33-9.


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