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Thrush and balanitis

When you have type 1 diabetes, you’re more likely to experience thrush and balanitis.
Content last reviewed and updated: 04.08.2023

A woman talking to a healthcare professional with medication packets in the background

What is thrush?

Thrush is a yeast infection caused by a fungus, called candida albicans, which lives on and in the body. It doesn’t cause harm but can be itchy and uncomfortable. Anyone can get thrush, but it can be more common if you have type 1 diabetes.

Why are you more likely to get thrush if you have type 1 diabetes?

If you have high levels of sugar in the blood, you can also have high levels of sugar in your sweat, saliva and urine. This sugar helps candida albicans (the fungus that causes thrush) to grow.

Where do you get thrush?

Thrush can occur in the mouth (oral thrush) and genitals, and sometimes in armpits and between the fingers.

How do you tell if you have thrush?

Here are the symptoms of thrush in different places in the body:

Oral thrush

Symptoms of oral thrush are redness and white spots coating the surface of the tongue. You may also experience other symptoms like cracks in the skin around your mouth, pain inside the mouth, difficulty eating or drinking or not being able to taste properly.

Vaginal thrush

Symptoms of vaginal thrush are white discharge, itching and soreness during sex or when you go to the toilet.

Penile thrush

Penile thrush appears as inflammation of the head of the penis (this inflammation is often referred to as balanitis). The head of the penis becomes red and sore and irritation and itching are also common. Small red spots may appear and a penile discharge can occur.

What should you do if you have thrush?

Thrush can usually be treated with over-the-counter remedies. Visit your pharmacist for help and advice.

If the infection persists, see your GP or speak to your Diabetes Healthcare Team for help or advice.

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