RECURRENT vulvovaginal thrush affects around 138 million women worldwide, a figure that is estimated to rise to 158 million by 2030 according to an analysis by researchers from the University of Manchester, Manchester, UK. The study lays bare the extent to which this fungal infection impacts the lives of women and emphasises the need to promote education and awareness of the condition.
According to the research, the countries with the highest number of cases of recurrent vulvovaginal thrush are China, India, and America at 29.1 million, 23.6 million, and 9.0 million, respectively. Notably, there are 1.2 million women in the UK who have the condition, while the countries with the lowest number of cases are Ghana, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
Quality of Life Impact
“Recurrent vulvovaginal thrush is common, debilitating, and complex. Myths, unnecessary worry, and stigma are associated with it as medical professionals struggle to understand it,” said lead researcher Dr Riina Rautemaa-Richardson, University of Manchester. “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 women should accept, rather than a medical problem which needs to be dealt with. But for millions of women, it can have a massive impact on quality of life.”
The infection, which is caused by the overgrowth of the fungus Candida, can cause a great deal of distress to women. Symptoms include itching, irritation, discharge, soreness, and skin damage.
These new figures emphasise the need for greater attention to be paid to the condition, which previous studies have shown develops in 75% of women at least once in their lives, with 6% experiencing recurrent episodes. It is often a subject that women are embarrassed to discuss.
“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 women the confidence to talk more openly about a problem which is distressing and painful,” added Dr Rautemaa-Richardson.
The research review also revealed that the risk of developing recurrent vulvovaginal thrush is associated with menopausal women aged 55 and over, and women taking antibiotics and hormone replacement therapy.
James Coker, Reporter