Thrush in men

Thrush is a common yeast infection that affects men and women. Thrush is caused by a group of yeasts called Candida. It’s usually harmless but it can be uncomfortable and keep coming back. This page has information about thrush in men.

Symptoms of thrush in men

Some men may not experience any signs or symptoms of thrush.

If symptoms do appear, they can 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 discharge under the foreskin that may look like cottage cheese – there may also be an unpleasant smell
  • difficulty pulling back the foreskin of your penis

Thrush as a skin infection

Thrush can affect other areas of the body such as the:

  • armpits
  • groin
  • areas between your fingers
  • skin between your genitals and anus

This usually causes a red, itchy or painful rash that scales over with white or yellow discharge. The rash may not be so obvious on darker skin.

Oral thrush

Thrush can also affect the inside of the month. This is known as oral thrush.

When to get medical advice

See a GP if:

  • you have the symptoms of thrush for the first time
  • your thrush keeps coming back (more than twice in six months)
  • treatment hasn’t worked
  • you have thrush and a weakened immune system - for example because of diabetes, HIV or chemotherapy

If you have had unprotected sexual intercourse and develop discomfort in your penis, or discharge, you should go to a sexual health clinic.

Treatment for thrush

You’ll often need anti-fungal medicine to get rid of thrush. Your GP or pharmacist (see section below) can advise you about treating thrush.

Thrush should clear up within a week with treatment.

You don’t need to treat partners, unless they have symptoms.

Recurring thrush

You might need to take treatment for longer (for up to six months) if you keep getting thrush (you get it more than twice in six months).

Your GP can help identify if there is something causing your thrush to last or recur. They’ll recommend how often you should use treatment.

Your pharmacist can help with thrush

You can buy some anti-fungal medication from pharmacies if you’ve had thrush diagnosed in the past and you know the symptoms.

Your pharmacist can recommend the best treatment for you. Ask if they have a private area to talk if you’re embarrassed.

You shouldn’t use antifungal medicine more than twice in six months without speaking to your pharmacist or doctor.

Things you can do yourself 

There are things you can do to help ease discomfort and prevent thrush returning. This includes:

  • using water and emollient (instead of soap) to wash your penis
  • drying the affected area properly after washing
  • wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear
  • avoiding sex until thrush has cleared up
  • using a condom to help stop it spreading
  • taking showers instead of baths

Causes of thrush

Thrush isn’t classed as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) but it can be triggered by sex and sometimes passed on through sex.

Thrush is caused by a fungus called candida that is normally harmless. Thrush tends to grow in warm, moist conditions and develops if the balance of bacteria changes.

This can happen if:

  • your skin is irritated or damaged
  • you’re taking antibiotics
  • you have poorly controlled diabetes
  • you have a weakened immune system, for example, because of HIV or chemotherapy

Types of thrush

For more information about other types of thrush, see:

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

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