Perimenopause is the name given to the lead-up to menopause and usually begins in a womans late 40’’s. Hormones production falls out of its usual rhythm and are in a state of fluctuation. Periods become more erratic, heavier bleeding, missing periods or longer bleeding cycles than normal. Memory problems may start and PMS symptoms worsen..
Menopause is the period in a woman’s life when menstruation has stopped and she has been without a period for 12 months. The ovaries are no longer releasing eggs and her estrogen, progesterone and testosterone hormones start to steadily and irreversably decline as she ages..
You might find yourself asking, can menopause cause thrush? The answer is yes – one of the lesser-known menopause symptoms is thrush. In this article, we’ll look at thrush and menopause – what causes it, what the symptoms are, and how to treat it. Firstly, what is thrush?
Thrush is a common type of yeast infection leading to inflammation. It’s usually caused by a type of yeast called candida, which usually lives harmlessly on the skin, in the mouth, in the gut, and in the vagina. In women, thrush most commonly affects the vagina and the skin. It’s usually harmless, but can be uncomfortable – itchiness and irritation are the most common symptoms.
Your chances of developing thrush increase if you have dry, irritated, or damaged skin, or if you use perfumed products like shower gel. Pregnancy, a weakened immune system, or taking antibiotics also increase your chances of getting it. And, so does the menopause. Before we look at the relationship between thrush and the menopause, let’s go through some of the symptoms..
What are the symptoms of thrush?
Vaginal thrush comes with a whole host of symptoms that can interfere with your everyday life. The most common ones are:
- Vaginal chaffing
- A sore clitoris area
- Unusually thick, white vaginal discharge
- Pain during sex, or when inserting a tampon
- Pain when peeing
It’s possible to have thrush and not have any symptoms – in fact, many women have it without even realising it. However, if you’re going through menopause, changing hormone levels and a decline in vaginal pH tend to cause bacteria to multiply quite quickly, which means you’re likely to develop symptoms at some point.
If you’re not sure whether or not you have thrush, your doctor or a nurse can perform a quick test. However, it’s usually not necessary.
Why is thrush common in menopause?
As menopause approaches, oestrogen ( estrogen) levels start to fluctuate, and perimenopause thrush is one of the side effects. When estrogen levels drop, the production of vaginal mucus also slows down. This mucus is designed to keep the vagina supple and elastic, so as levels drop, vaginal dryness often sets in. Along with this comes atrophy – the thinning of tissue. And on top of that, acidity levels in the vagina also fall. All of this leads to an environment that’s more susceptible to yeast (and other) infections such as thrush.
Thrush can also come hand-in-hand with other things, like urinary tract infections (UTIs). Again, these come about as a result of vaginal dryness and reduced acidity causing an environment that allows bacteria to multiply more easily. Clitoral atrophy – when the clitoris stops responding to sexual arousal – is also brought on by the decline in estrogen that comes with menopause.
How to get rid of menopause thrush
Thankfully, thrush often goes away on its own. It can however be treated very easily with anti-fungal medication. The medication comes in the form of tablets, cream, or vaginal suppositories which you can buy over the counter without a prescription. According to the NHS, once treated, thrush should clear up within one to two weeks.
Some people experience recurring instances of thrush during menopause. If this happens, there are a few things you can do to help prevent it. Here are the main things.
Douching removes the healthy vaginal bacteria that help protect you against infections such as thrush. It’s best to only use water to wash your vagina, and avoid using perfumed soaps and shower gels in the pubic area, as these can make you itch.
Keep yourself dry
Excess moisture, such as sweat, can help yeast infections thrive. And since hot flashes are so common during menopause, it’s important to keep sweat at bay in order to avoid thrush. It’s a good idea to wear cotton underwear, as it’s more breathable and doesn’t make you sweat. Avoid sitting around in wet clothes such as swimwear for too long, too.
Avoid tight clothing
Wearing things like tight jeans, leggings, lycra shorts and tights too often can increase your chances of developing thrush.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
HRT is a common treatment for many menopause symptoms, including vaginal dryness. It works by replacing the hormones that are in decline or are no longer being produced by the body – specifically estrogen and progesterone.
If you’ve taken preventative measures and still get thrush regularly, especially after the menopause, you should speak to your doctor, as you could have another condition such as diabetes that’s causing you to develop thrush.
The bottom line
Thrush is a common but lesser-known symptom of menopause. Vaginal dryness, pubic itching, and thick, white discharge are some of the most common signs of vaginal thrush. There are things you can do to avoid it, like keeping dry, taking HRT, and avoiding douching. And if you have thrush, you can easily treat it with over-the-counter medication and topical creams.
If you want to learn more about menopausal itching, read our article about itchy skin in menopause.
What does menopause itching feel like?
The reduction in moisture caused by falling estrogen levels leads to dry skin and itching. This feels just like any other itchy skin and can be accompanied by red bumps, a rash, and irritation.
Can menopause cause a sore clitoris area?
Menopause can cause symptoms like a sore or itchy clitoris and clitoral atrophy (when the clitoris no longer functions as it should). This is because when estrogen levels fall, the clitoris – along with the rest of the vulva – can get smaller and drier, leading to pain and soreness.
When should I be concerned about vaginal itching?
Menopause vaginal itching is common and is usually nothing to worry about. However, if it persists for more than a week and comes with other symptoms like ulcers, blisters, or pain, you should contact your doctor.