Media Centre

138 million suffer from recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis, Lancet review reveals

August 03 2018

Around 138 million women are affected by a distressing but treatable fungal infection world-wide, according to a Lancet review published today by scientists at the University of Manchester. And the incidence of recurrent thrush, warns lead researcher Dr Riina Rautemaa-Richardson, is set to rise to an estimated 158 million people by 2030.

Vulvovaginal candidiasis infection – caused by overgrowth of Candida yeast – causes itching, irritation, discharge, soreness and damage to the skin. For many women it is a taboo subject.

“Recurrent vulvovaginal thrush is common, debilitating and complex. Myths, unnecessary worry and stigma are associated with it as medical professionals struggle to understand it. Though thrush is treatable, it often reoccurs and there are often additional causes for the symptoms which all need to be addressed. Antifungal treatment is often only part of the solution. Thrush is often thought of as an embarrassing problem woman should accept, rather than a medical problem which needs to be dealt with.”

PREVALENCE: Previous research has shown that 75% of women develop thrush at least once in their lifetime and over 6% of women suffer from recurrent episodes. Chinese, Indian and U.S. women are the world’s most numerous sufferers of thrush at 29.1 million, 23.6 million and 9 million respectively, they find. Ghana, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, are the countries where the condition is the least prevalent from the data they harvested. And a significant 1.2 million women in the UK suffer from the condition.

RISK FACTORS: Thrush is a risk associated with menopausal women aged 55 and over, and women taking hormone replacement therapy and antibiotics.

“For millions of women, it can have a massive impact on quality of life. For many, thrush is treatable, and patients are able to regain their quality of life. But much work needs to be done to educate both healthcare professionals and patients about the best way to do that. We hope this research will give more women the confidence to talk more openly about a problem which is distressing and painful.”