The difference between thrush and a yeast infection is the area which is infected. Thrush typically refers to a yeast infection in a breastfeeding mother and her baby. In most cases, the baby becomes infected through the mother. A yeast infection usually refers to overproduction of yeast in the genitalia.
Yeast and bacteria are part of the microscopic food chain of the human body. Bacteria eat the yeast, and when there are not enough bacteria present, yeast growth becomes excessive. The result is a yeast infection.
The symptoms of both thrush and a yeast infection present in much the same way. The telltale sign is a white curd-like substance on the infected area. Any area which is moist and warm is susceptible. Thrush is typically found in the mother's breast, on her nipple, in the baby's mouth, and on the baby's bottom.
When a baby's bottom is infected, thrush resembles a severe diaper rash. The difference between thrush and a common diaper rash is that thrush is persistent despite treatment. Ointments might even make the rash worse. A breast infected with thrush will be very painful, and the nipple area will be red, flaky or have a rash. Untreated, a yeast infection in the breast can lead to plugged ducts and mastitis.
The mouth of a baby with thrush will have white curds on the inside of the lips and cheeks. There may also be a white coating on the tongue. The curds might look like they can be scraped away, but doing so will cause redness and bleeding.
Mothers who have taken antibiotics during pregnancy are at higher risk for developing thrush, and taking oral contraceptives or steroids also increases the chances of developing a thrush infection. These drugs effect the immune system and compromise the body's ability to maintain its chemical balance.
Both men and women can develop genital yeast infections, and in both cases, white curds or a discharge will probably be visible. In women, the vagina might also have a white coating and a foul smell. A vaginal yeast infection is usually itchy and uncomfortable. Yeast infections in men normally occur in the penis, and often, there is irritation around the penis and a discharge. The tip of the penis is typically red and painful.
Both thrush and a yeast infection require the attention of a medical professional. Prescription medication is needed to restore normal bacteria levels. There are some home and natural remedies but they probably should not be used in place of professional medical treatment.