Male thrush

It's often assumed that thrush is a condition that only affects women, but Candida albicans (thrush) also affects many men across the world, although the symptoms tend to be different. Thrush can develop for many different reasons, but it is fundamentally an infection that develops when the body's natural bacteria becomes disturbed. Although it can be transmitted during sexual activity, thrush is not an STI, which is why it is essential that due care is taken between both partners to ensure neither is infected or reinfected with the fungus.

Male thrush fungi Male thrush fungus

As a fungus that occurs naturally in the body, candida (or moniliasis) in very small amounts is harmless, but if your body is unable to keep it under control, it can cause a yeast infection. Infections can be uncomfortable, but aren't normally serious, although men are advised to get a doctor's diagnosis the first time they experience symptoms to eliminate the risk of any more serious underlying causes.

Causes of thrush in men

The Candida fungus is normally kept under control by the body's immune system but can over-grow as a result of various different factors, causing an infection.


Antibiotics

Thrush most commonly tends to develop after taking antibiotics, as these types of treatments don't distinguish between good and bad bacteria, therefore killing both.

If bacterial balance is disturbed an infection is likely to develop.

Hygiene

Candida albicans tends to thrive in moist warm conditions, therefore making areas such as the groin vulnerable for infection, especially if it's not dried properly after a bath or shower.

Skin damage as a result of harsh cleaning products, soaps or perfumes can also increase the risk of infection.

Affected immune system

If your immune system isn't performing as it should, it is less able to control the Candida fungus, which can lead to a flare-up.

Diabetes

Having type 1 or type 2 diabetes is often associated with an increased occurrence of thrush in men, because high blood-sugar levels create a more favourable environment for yeast to grow.

If infections are recurrent and you experience other symptoms such as weight loss, excessive thirst and an increased need to urinate, you should speak to your doctor.

Diet

If you follow a diet high in carbohydrates it can also creates a more favourable environment for yeast to grow.

Weight

If you are overweight, it's more likely that there will be folds of skin on your body where dampness can develop. Skin is also more likely to be prone to damage as a result of areas of skin rubbing against each other. The Candida bacteria tend to favour areas of skin that has been damaged.




balanitis

Symptoms of male thrush

The symptoms of male thrush are slightly different to those experienced by women when they have vaginal thrush and can appear in the groin area or around the tip of the penis, this often develops into something that is known as balanitis.

If thrush (or balanitis) develops in the skin area between the testicles and leg, it will usually start off as a red itchy rash, that later develops spots and small blisters. The skin can then become scaly and produce a white-yellow substance.

Balanitis is often signified by:

  • Redness of the skin around the head of the penis
  • Inflammation of the of the head of the penis
  • Irritation of the head of the penis
  • Lumpy discharge underneath the foreskin
  • Itchiness of the areas
  • Difficulty pulling back the foreskin
  • Difficulty or pain when passing urine
  • Pain when having sex

Diagnosing thrush in men

If you are afraid that you might have male thrush or balanitis due to the symptoms experienced, then it is essential that you visit your local GP or care physician as soon as possible. This infection is usually easily diagnosed by the identification of inflammation or redness around the glans at the tip and helmet of the penis.

To gather a more thorough, accurate reading and to rule out the possibility of an STI, a doctor or nurse may collect a swab of the infected area (around the foreskin/penis head). These samples are then checked for any signs of thrush and similar infections, but usually due to the visual symptoms of thrush is more easily identifiable in men compared to women.

Preventing male thrush

Similar to women, when looking to prevent thrush from occurring, men should ensure:

  • Their penis is cleaned and dried thoroughly
  • Ensure foreskin is free from moisture to prevent fungus growth
  • Reduced use of medicated soaps, genital sprays, deodorants, bubble baths and other irritants
  • Underwear and trousers are not too tight to encourage ventilation of the genital area
  • Underwear is cleaned regularly
  • Sexual partners as well as themselves go for regular sexual health check-ups

Male thrush treatment

Male thrush sometimes goes away on its own, but not always. In this case, effective treatment can provide timely relief from the discomfort. The first point of call for treating penile thrush is fluconazole (also known as Diflucan).

Fluconazole works by breaking down and destroying the protein enzymes that promote the growth of the fungi cells in the affected area, without this the fungi cannot survive and subsides after a while.

Clotrimazole (also known as Canesten) is often available over the counter and can also be used for the treatment of balanitis also. Other beneficial treatments that may help to halt the yeast growth include:

  • ketoconazole
  • miconazole
  • econazole

If you are diagnosed with thrush and require effective treatment then you can have a look at our Diflucan page below for more information

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