Thrush (or candidiasis) is a yeast infection caused by a group of fungi called Candida. Thrush is commonly associated with women, but even men can get thrush.
Thrush infection in men mostly affects the head of the penis and is called as candida balanitis. Candida can also infect other regions of the body such as skin and the oral cavity.
Causes of male thrush
The fungus that causes candida infection (Candida albicans) is present naturally in our body. In healthy situations, it is harmless, but when the body’s immunity is compromised, Candida can grow excessively in any part of the body.
Some conditions such as diabetes can also promote the growth of the fungus and lead to infection.
The risk of thrush is higher in those with:
- A weakened immune system
- Obesity (the fungus can thrive in large rolls of skin)
- Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
- Received antibiotic therapy that has killed the friendly bacteria
- Topical or oral corticosteroids use
- Injury to the mucous membrane of the mouth of the gastrointestinal tract
- Wear tight-fitting clothes such as lycra or nylon
- Sexual contact with someone who has a thrush infection
Symptoms of Candidal balanitis
Candida infects the head of the penis (glans) and causes candidal balanitis. The symptoms of candidal balanitis include:
- Redness of the head of the penis
- Swelling of the head of the penis
- Itching and irritation
- Thickening and lumpy discharge under the foreskin
- Unpleasant odour
- Pain during urination
- Problem pulling back the foreskin
- Pain during sex
In diabetic men, the symptoms may be more severe, and intense redness and pain of the head of the penis may be seen.
Can men get thrush infection during sex?
Thrush infection of the vagina is not a sexually transmitted infection, but it can sometimes be passed on to a man during sex. However, this is rare and happens if you have a compromised immune system or other risk factors.
If you have candidal balanitis, your infection can get worse during sex. The best option is to avoid sex till you have completed a course of treatment and the infection has cleared.
Some men may have an allergic reaction to candida infection in a partner’s vagina leading to a mild form of balanitis (inflammation of the head of the penis), which usually clears up when the partner gets treatment.
Treatment of thrush
Thrush that infects penis or groin, topical antifungal creams (such as clotrimazole, ketoconazole, miconazole, econazole) are used for treatment.
If you have severe itchiness, additional medications called corticosteroid creams might be given to reduce inflammation.
If symptoms do not relieve by two weeks, your doctor may give you oral tablets (fluconazole).
Re-infection is common with candida, so it is better to avoid sex or use a condom. Sometimes, both the sex partners may need to be treated.
The fungus (candida) survives well in warm, moist conditions. Some of the preventative measures against Candida infection include:
- Keep your penis clean and dry it well after washing
- Avoid perfumed shower gels and other fragrance soaps on the genitals
- Do not use tight underwear and other restrictive clothes
- Avoid sex or use a condom till the symptoms of thrush in your partner have subsided
- Drink plenty of fluids
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- NHS choices. Thrush in men. Accessed at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Thrush-men/Pages/Introduction.aspx on 7 Dec 2016.
- Health Service Executive. Candidiasis, men. Accessed at http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/C/Candidiasis,-men/Treating-thrush-in-men.html on 8 Dec 2016
- Healthdirect Australia. Thrush (genital). Accessed at http://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/S_T/Thrush-genital on 7 dec 2016.