Thrush in men

Also called candidiasis

Key points about thrush in men

  • Thrush is a common problem although it occurs much less often in men than it does in women.
  • Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of a yeast called Candida albicans.
  • It's normal to have Candida on your penis and testicles and most of the time it doesn't cause any problems.
  • However, sometimes certain factors disrupt the natural balance, causing the Candida to multiply.
  • Symptoms include soreness, itchiness and irritation of the head of your penis and discomfort when peeing or having sex. 
  • Thrush is more likely to happen if you've been on antibiotics, have poorly controlled diabetes, have a weakened immune system or a sexual partner with untreated thrush. 
  • It can be treated with an antifungal medicine.


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Your risk of getting thrush increases if you:

  • have recently been on a course of antibiotics or steroids
  • have diabetes and your blood glucose is not under control
  • have a tight foreskin, as it is can be difficult to clean and dry the area under the foreskin.
  • have a weakened immune system, such as from chemotherapy
  • wearing tight-fitting clothes
  • use fragranced soaps and shower gels which may irritate the penis
  • have a sexual partner with untreated thrush.

Thrush symptoms in men include:

  • a red rash at the tip of your penis or under your foreskin
  • irritation and burning and redness around the head of your penis and under your foreskin (balanitis(external link))
  • soreness or itching of your penis
  • a white discharge from the end of your penis (like cottage cheese)
  • an unpleasant smell
  • difficulty pulling back your foreskin.
  • pain or discomfort when passing urine or having sex.

The signs and symptoms of thrush are a lot like symptoms of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If left untreated, these conditions can increase your risk of getting other STIs. If you're not sure that you have thrush, see your healthcare provider.

If you've had thrush diagnosed in the past and you know the symptoms, you can buy antifungal creams from a pharmacist. However as the symptoms of thrush are are same as other conditions (eg STIs, dermatitis) it's recommended that you see your healthcare provider for an examination so you get the right diagnosis and treatment. 

See your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of thrush and you:

  • are having symptoms of thrush for the first time
  • are under 16 years or over 60 years old
  • have treated yourself with a thrush treatment from the pharmacy, but your symptoms have not gone away.
  • have a history of STIs, or have had any unprotected sexual contact.

Antifungal medicine is used to treat thrush. It comes in the form of creams to apply to your penis, it is also important to clean and dry the area well to help thrush clear up. 

Symptoms should clear up within a few days of using the treatment. You shouldn't use antifungal medicine more than twice in 6 months without speaking to a pharmacist or doctor. 

The following measures have not been shown to help:

  • Special low-sugar, low-yeast or high-yoghurt diets.
  • Putting yoghurt onto your penis.
  • Probiotics.

You can still have sex when you have thrush. However, it can be uncomfortable and you may experience a burning sensation during or after sex. Use plenty of lubricant to protect your skin. Use barrier forms of contraception to avoid passing thrush on to your partner. 

Thrush can also pass to the mouth during oral sex. Read more about oral thrush here.

ome creams to treat thrush can weaken condoms, so apply the treatments after you have had sex if you are using condoms.

It's possible to pass thrush on to your partner during vaginal, oral or anal sex. However, your partner only needs to be tested (and treated) if they have symptoms.

The best way to prevent thrush is to identify what triggers it.

Things you can do to ease discomfort and prevent thrush returning:

  • Dry the affected area properly after washing.
  • Wear loose cotton underwear and avoid tight clothing.
  • Use only water-based lubricants.
  • Use soap substitutes such as water-based emollients.
  • Consider changing your laundry detergent.
  • Ensure your blood glucose level is kept under control if you have diabetes.

Avoid the following: 

  • Avoid using soap to wash your genital area.
  • Avoid irritants such as deodorants, talcum powder, bubble bath solutions.
  • Avoid spermicidal condoms.
  • Avoid fabric softeners.

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Credits: Healthify editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Dr Phoebe Hunt, Medical Officer, Northland

Last reviewed:

Page last updated: