What is it?
Thrush is the colloquial name given to infection caused by candida, a type of yeast that is commonly found in the gut flora of healthy adults. Candidal infection can lead to itchy, burning areas of skin and the production of a thick white discharge. These infections typically affect mucosal linings including the inside of the mouth and internal genitalia however they can also affect the skin and nails.
What causes it?
Candida is part of the normal flora of healthy adults and its presence in isolation does not lead to infection. Infection is usually seen due to the over-proliferation of the organism which occurs due to the presence of a favourable environment for the organism to thrive. Risk factors include:
Loss of organisms that compete against candida within an environment, for example, the use of soaps or broad-spectrum antibiotics.
A compromised immune system due to other coexisting diseases or medications.
Excessively moist environments caused by sweating e.g. wearing occlusive clothing (nylon tights, synthetic nappies) and obesity.
How to treat it?
Treatment of candidal infections includes both:
Using anti-fungal medicines, usually topical treatments alone are sufficient but in more severe cases oral/tablet forms can be used.
Avoiding or minimising the favourable environment that has allowed the fungus to thrive.
Wearing loose fitting clothes
Using a non-soap cleanser
Crucially, using just an antifungal medicine alone without removing the favourable environment creates a significant risk of recurrence or failure of treatment.
Fungal infections tend also to be stubborn. Prolonged courses of treatment are therefore often required.