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Home / Thrush / Male thrush: the symptoms to look out for

Male thrush: the symptoms to look out for

Learn more about male thrush

Thrush is a common condition in women. However, you may be surprised to learn that it also affects men. 1 in 10 men will have it at some stage in their lives.

While uncomfortable and embarrassing, it is important to know the symptoms so you can diagnose the infection, as a lot of conditions look similar (e.g. STIs).

Man covering his crotch.

Keep reading to learn more about the signs and symptoms of male thrush.

What is male thrush?

Male thrush, or candida balanitis, is an infection caused by candida fungus (yeast). The same fungus causes vaginal thrush, oral thrush, fungal nails and thrush infections on the skin.

It causes itching and irritation on the penis, but for some men, it does not cause any symptoms. The symptoms are typically mild, like in women, but will still require proper diagnosis and treatment.

How do men get thrush?

Men get thrush in the same way women do.

Candida fungus usually lives harmlessly on the body. However, in the right conditions, it can thrive. This causes the fungi to multiply and cause symptoms.

The fungus multiplies in warm moist environments. It can be caused by:

  • hot weather
  • wearing tight non-breathable clothing
  • not drying yourself after showering or exercising

Can you get thrush after sex?

Thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, it can be spread through sexual contact. Occasionally, women with the infection can pass it on to their male partners.

If you already have thrush, sex can cause additional irritation.

What are the risk factors for male thrush?

Some factors make it more likely for you to develop thrush:

  • diabetes - high blood sugar levels promote fungus growth
  • antibiotics - taking antibiotics affects your immune system and the natural balance of fungus and bacteria
  • a weak immune system (e.g. from HIV/AIDS, taking steroids or undergoing chemotherapy)
  • a tight foreskin - makes it more difficult to keep everything clean and dry

If you fall under one of these categories, you will need to take more care to prevent symptoms from occurring. In some cases, you may need ongoing and preventative treatment to keep the fungus at bay.

What does male thrush look like?

Male and female thrush symptoms are not that different, the only difference is the genitalia. However, in men, symptoms can look like other conditions. Knowing the signs of thrush in men is key in diagnosing it.

Man pulling boxer shorts.

The most common symptoms are irritation, redness and burning. The rash usually occurs around the head of the penis and under the foreskin. However, it can occasionally spread to the scrotum, groin and testicles.

Other male thrush symptoms include:

In some cases, it causes no symptoms. You won’t know you have the infection unless you get tested.

Can thrush cause bleeding?

No, it does not usually cause bleeding. If you see blood on the penis, in semen or in urine, it could be due to a skin lesion or injury.

It may also be a sign of a more serious condition such as prostatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or cancer.

If you experience penile bleeding, see your doctor as soon as possible.

What is the difference between thrush and other conditions?

Many conditions can cause similar symptoms. It can be difficult to know without testing whether it’s thrush or another condition.

Here are some common conditions that can cause similar symptoms.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Like thrush, STIs often cause no symptoms. However, when they do, they can be confused with one another.

Condom on banana

STIs are infections that can cause discharge and irritation. One key difference, however, is that an STI is also likely to cause pain or burning after sex or whilst peeing.

STIs that can look similar include:

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to tell from the symptoms alone unless you have had thrush before or haven’t been sexually active. So, you must get an STI test from a sexual health clinic to rule out other conditions.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

UTIs are caused by bacteria getting into the urinary tract through the urethra. They don't happen to men very often, but when they do, it is usually older men because they are more likely to have bacteria in their system (for example, from using a catheter).

UTIs don’t cause any external irritation. They mainly cause pain whilst urinating and changes in your urine. Occasionally, a UTI can cause an unusual smell but it is an uncommon symptom. Thrush does not affect your urine stream or cause pain.

Speak to your doctor if you think you have a UTI.

How do I get rid of male thrush?

It will require a course of antifungal treatment. Antifungals kill the fungus and prevent it from spreading, stopping symptoms in their tracks.

Assortment of pills on a yellow background.

You can use an antifungal cream like Clotrimazole to get rid of the infection. Apply the thrush cream 2–3 times a day until the infection has cleared. Or, you could take one dose of the antifungal tablet Fluconazole instead.

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When taken as soon as symptoms occur, antifungals should clear the infection within 7 -14 days. You may need ongoing treatment if you get it more than 4 times in 12 months. Speak to your doctor if you get recurring thrush.

Can male thrush go away on its own?

Yes, it can go away on its own in both men and women. However, if it’s your first time having thrush symptoms, you should get your symptoms checked by a doctor to rule out the possibility of other infections that will require treatment.

Your doctor will usually conduct a thrush test, which involves a swab test.

Can thrush cause complications?

Thrush is a common and mild condition. Most people will not experience any serious complications. Rarely, thrush can become a widespread fungal infection affecting the internal organs. This only occurs in people with weakened immune systems, such as those who have HIV or are undergoing chemotherapy.

How can I prevent thrush?

The best way to prevent infection is by having good hygiene.

Home remedies for thrush include:

  • showering after exercise and drying yourself thoroughly
  • wearing cotton, breathable underwear.
  • avoiding tight underwear and trousers.
  • cleaning your penis using unperfumed shower emollients to avoid irritation.

You should also use male or female condoms with a partner if you don’t know their sexual history. While catching it from sex is rare, it will also reduce the risk of contracting other STIs.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Plauto Filho Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 02-05-2024
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Further reading

Thrush during pregnancy

Thrush during pregnancy

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Recurring thrush: causes and treatment

Recurring thrush: causes and treatment

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How does thrush affect men and women differently?

How does thrush affect men and women differently?

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