Many people think of thrush as an infection only women get. But, in reality, men can be affected too.
Thrush (or candidiasis) is a yeast infection. Developing it can become very uncomfortable or, even worse, affect your sex life.
Here, we spoke to Family Planning Association’s (FPA) director of health and wellbeing, Natika Halil, to find out about symptoms, treatment and prevention in men.
What is thrush?
Thrush is an infection that is usually caused by the yeast fungus candida albicans. This yeast lives harmlessly on the skin and in the body and is normally kept under control. Occasionally, however, conditions change and signs and symptoms can develop.
What are the symptoms for men?
Some men will not have any signs or symptoms at all and may not be aware they have thrush. But symptoms you might notice include:
• Irritation, burning or itching under the foreskin or on the tip of the penis.
• Redness, or red patches, under the foreskin or on the tip of the penis.
• A thin or thicker discharge, like cottage cheese, under the foreskin which sometimes smells yeasty.
• Difficulty in pulling back the foreskin.
How do men develop thrush?
Most men do not get thrush but having certain conditions can make it more likely, including HIV and diabetes.
Candida tends to grow in warm and moist conditions. Therefore, you may develop thrush if you do not dry your penis carefully after washing.
It can also occur if you are run down and your immune system is weak.
How can thrush affect your sex life?
Thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection but can sometimes develop after you have had sex. There is no need for your partner to have any treatment unless they have symptoms, but it is best to avoid having sex until you’ve completed a course of treatment and the infection has gone.
How can men prevent thrush?
You can help prevent thrush by cleaning your penis regularly and drying it properly. Avoid wearing tight clothing (such as tight jeans) or synthetic clothing (such as nylon underwear) that prevents ventilation.
Men should also try to avoid medicated and highly perfumed soap, bubble bath, genital sprays and deodorants, and any other irritants such as disinfectants and antiseptics.
If you suspect thrush for the first time, the NHS suggests seeing your GP for a diagnosis. This is because the symptoms can be similar to those of a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Your GP will be able to tell the difference.