They are itchy, smelly and uncomfortable, and no one really likes to talk about them. A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva — the tissues at the vaginal opening. Also called vaginal candidiasis.
A vaginal yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted infection. But, there is an increased risk of vaginal yeast infection at the time of first regular sexual activity. There is also some evidence that infections may be linked to mouth to genital contact (oral-genital sex).
Medications can effectively treat vaginal yeast infections. If you have recurrent yeast infections — four or more within a year — you may need a longer treatment course and a maintenance plan.
Yeast infection symptoms can range from mild to moderate, and include:
- Itching and irritation in the vagina and vulva
- A burning sensation, especially during intercourse or while urinating
- Redness and swelling of the vulva
- Vaginal pain and soreness
- Vaginal rash
- Thick, white, odor-free vaginal discharge with a cottage cheese appearance
- Watery vaginal discharge
You might have a complicated yeast infection if:
- You have severe signs and symptoms, such as extensive redness, swelling and itching that leads to tears, cracks, or sores
- You have four or more yeast infections in a year
- Your infection is caused by a less typical type of fungus
- You're pregnant
- You have uncontrolled diabetes
- Your immune system is weakened because of certain
- medications or conditions such as HIV infection.
Candida albicans is the most common type of fungus to cause yeast infections. Yeast infections caused by other types of candida fungus can be more difficult to treat, and generally need more-aggressive therapies.
Your vagina naturally contains a balanced mix of yeast, including candida, and bacteria. Certain bacteria (lactobacillus) act to prevent an overgrowth of yeast. But that balance can be disrupted. An overgrowth of candida or penetration of the fungus into deeper vaginal cell layers causes the signs and symptoms of a yeast infection.
Overgrowth of yeast can result from:
- Antibiotic use, which causes an imbalance in natural vaginal flora
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- An impaired immune system
- Taking oral contraceptives or hormone therapy that increase estrogen levels
- Tight-fitting pantyhose
- Douching, which removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protect you from infection.
- Fragranced feminine products, including bubble bath, pads, and tampons.
- Hot tubs and extremely hot baths.
- Unnecessary antibiotic use, such as for colds or other viral infections.
- Staying in wet clothes, such as swimsuits and workout attire, for long periods of time.
- Wear underwear with cotton crouch.
- Eating yogurt
- Take supplements with lactobacillus
- Best to see a doctor.
Can men get yeast infections?
Absolutely, the groin area is especially prone to Candida overgrowth because of skin folds and moisture. Still, penile yeast infections are most caused by having unprotected vaginal intercourse with a woman who has the infection too. You can help prevent a yeast infection by wearing condoms during sex. Regular bathing can also help.
The symptoms of a yeast infection in men may not be as prominent as women though you might see redness and white patches along the penis as well as burning and itchy sensations. if not treated, can lead to a wide range of painful, uncomfortable, symptoms. It can also lead to serious complications if the infection spreads into your bloodstream.
- Prolonged antibiotics
- Impaired immune system
How to prevent penile yeast infection:
- Wear a condom to help reduce your chances of developing a yeast infection.
- Practice sexual monogamy to reduce your risk for a yeast infection.
- Practice good hygiene and keep your penis and genitals clean and dry.
- If you are uncircumcised, clean under the foreskin with soap and water, and return your foreskin to its usual position after you have sexual intercourse.
Yeast infection in pregnancy:
Yeast infections are common during pregnancy because of hormone fluctuations. You will want to see your doctor if you’re pregnant and suspect a yeast infection so that you can get the right diagnosis.
A yeast infection during pregnancy is not always treated in the same way as in nonpregnant women. You will not be able to take oral antifungal medications due to possible birth defects. Topical antifungals are safe to use during pregnancy.
While yeast infections will not hurt your baby, it’s possible to pass the Candida fungus to them during delivery. This can then lead to diaper rash and oral thrush in your baby.
Yeast infection after sex:
While it is possible to develop a yeast infection after having sex, a yeast infection itself is not an STI. (sexual transmitted infection) Instead, there are other factors at play that can throw off Candida balance in the vaginal area. Vaginal intercourse, as well as penetration via sex toys and fingers, can all introduce bacteria.
Another possibility is having vaginal intercourse with a man who has a penile yeast infection. The exact opposite can happen too, where a man might develop a penile yeast infection from a woman who has a vaginal yeast infection. Oral sex may also disrupt bacteria in the mouth, vagina, and penile areas.
Yeast infection and periods:
Having both a yeast infection and your period can feel like a double whammy. However, this is not uncommon. Yeast infections are most likely to occur in women during the final days leading up to their period.
Fluctuations in hormones are thought to be a cause of yeast infections before your period, causing imbalances in healthy bacteria in the vagina.
If you experience white to yellow discharge in the week before your period, this isn’t automatically a yeast infection. What’s key is if you experience other hallmark symptoms too, such as redness, burning, and itchiness.Bottom line:
Talk to your doctor ASAP if you feel and see any uncomfortable feeling. You do not want to make matters worse.