- How Can I Tell If I Have a Yeast Infection?
- You Asked It: Can My GF Give Me a Yeast Infection?
- I’M A GUY, AND MY GIRLFRIEND HAS A YEAST INFECTION. COULD I GET IT FROM HER?
- Telling Your Partner About a Yeast Infection
- Vaginal Yeast Infection Signs and Symptoms
- What Are the Symptoms of a Vaginal Yeast Infection?
- How Is a Yeast Infection Diagnosed?
- What Doctors Look For When They Suspect a Yeast Infection
- Tests That Help Determine Yeast Infection Presence
- Symptoms of Other Types of Yeast Infections
How Can I Tell If I Have a Yeast Infection?
- Larger text sizeLarge text sizeRegular text size
How can I tell if I have a yeast infection?
A girl usually notices certain things if she has a vaginal yeast infection. She may have itching and irritation in the vagina; swelling and irritation of the vulva (the folds of skin outside the vagina); pain or burning when peeing or having sex; or thick, white vaginal discharge that looks a bit like cottage cheese. Some girls will have several of these symptoms; others may only notice one or two.
It’s best to see a doctor if you think you may have a yeast infection, or if you have anything different going on, like changes in your vaginal discharge. Other infections can cause similar symptoms, including some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) if you have ever had sex.
Your doctor can recommend the best treatment for you. If you don’t have a family doctor, you can visit a health clinic like Planned Parenthood. If your school has a student health center, you might be able to get checked out there.
*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.
Reviewed by: Julia Brown Lancaster, MSN, WHNP-BC Date reviewed: November 2015
It itches. It burns. It’s embarrassing to talk about. If you’ve ever had one, you know what it’s like. If not, you’re lucky. I’m referring to a yeast infection, a non-serious but very uncomfortable vaginal condition that I see frequently in my female patients at Westchester Health. (Although relatively rare, men can also get yeast infections from having unprotected sex with a woman who has a yeast infection.)
There are many over-the-counter treatments for yeast infections but the best course of action is to see your doctor, because other infections can cause similar symptoms, including some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Is it a yeast infection or a UTI? How to tell.
Tiffany Werbin-Silver, MD, FACOG
The typical symptoms of a yeast infection:
- itching and irritation in the vagina
- swelling and irritation of the vulva (the area and folds of skin outside the vagina)
- pain or burning when urinating or having sex
- thick, white vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese
Symptoms are more likely to occur the week before a menstrual period. Some women experience several of these symptoms, while others may only notice one or two.
The typical symptoms of a UTI:
- burning while urinating
- frequent or intense urge to urinate, even though little comes out when you do
- pain or pressure in your back or lower abdomen
- cloudy, dark, bloody or strange-smelling urine
- feeling tired or shaky
- fever or chills
What causes a vaginal yeast infection?
Yeast is a fungus that normally lives in the vagina in small amounts, but a vaginal yeast infection means that too many yeast cells are present, which causes symptoms. This “over-growth” of yeast cells can be caused by:
- taking antibiotics which can kill too much “good” bacteria and result in too much yeast growing in the vagina
- high estrogen levels caused by pregnancy or hormone therapy
- certain health problems, like diabetes or HIV infection
- problems with the immune system
- corticosteroids which can weaken the immune system
- tight-fitting, nonabsorbent pants or undergarments that hold in warmth and moisture
- feminine hygiene sprays, talcs or perfumes used in the vaginal area
Contrary to popular belief, yeast infections are not sexually transmitted. After having unprotected sex with a partner who has a yeast infection, you may have more than the normal amount of yeast in your vagina. However, if after having sex you develop a yeast infection with symptoms, it is most likely because other health factors are involved.
How to treat
If you’re not pregnant, you can treat yourself at home with common OTC remedies such an antifungal cream, a vaginal suppository or antifungal tablets. Alternatively, if your symptoms are mild, you may just want to wait and see if they clear up on their own.
NOTE: If you use a cream or suppository to treat a yeast infection, do not depend on a condom or diaphragm for birth control. The oil in some yeast infection medicines weakens latex, the material often used in condoms and diaphragms.
If your yeast infection regularly comes back
If you have more than 4 yeast infections in one year, see your doctor. He/she will perform tests to see if your yeast infections are being caused by another health problem, such as diabetes.
7 ways to prevent yeast infections
By practicing good genital hygiene and following these 7 guidelines, you can help prevent most (if not all) vaginal yeast infections:
- Keep your vaginal area clean. Use mild, unscented soap and water. Rinse well.
- After using the toilet, wipe from front to back to avoid spreading yeast or bacteria from your anus to the vagina or urinary tract.
- Wear underwear that helps keep your genital area dry and doesn’t hold in warmth and moisture (cotton is best).
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing, such as pantyhose and tight-fitting jeans. These may increase body heat and moisture in your genital area.
- Change out of a wet bathing suit right away. Wearing a wet suit for many hours keeps your genital area warm and moist.
- Change sanitary pads or tampons often.
- Don’t douche or use deodorant tampons, feminine sprays, powders or perfumes. These items can change the normal balance of organisms in your vagina.
Concerned that you may have a yeast infection? Come see us.
If you think you may have a vaginal yeast infection, or have yeast infections that keep coming back, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health OB/GYNs. He/she will make a diagnosis, determine if a related health condition is also involved, and together with you, choose the best course of treatment so you can soon get relief and feel better. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
By Tiffany Werbin-Silver, MD, FACOG, an OB/GYN with Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners
You Asked It: Can My GF Give Me a Yeast Infection?
I’M A GUY, AND MY GIRLFRIEND HAS A YEAST INFECTION. COULD I GET IT FROM HER?
Great question! The short answer? It’s possible for people with penises to get yeast infections from having sex, but it’s HIGHLY unlikely.
Everyone (of all genders) has yeast in their bodies—particularly in moist, dark places like the mouth, vagina and even in skin folds. Sometimes, the balance of bacteria can get thrown out of whack by antibiotics, hormonal changes (in people with vaginas) or other reasons. This can mean that yeast overgrows, causing a yeast infection.
It’s rare for people with penises to get a yeast infection, and it’s even rarer for them to get a yeast infection from having sex.
However, it is possible to get a yeast infection from unprotected penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex with someone with a yeast infection. It’s more likely for people with penises to get a yeast infection if they have diabetes, have recently taken antibiotics, or they have an autoimmune condition. People with uncircumcised penises are also more likely to get a yeast infection, since yeast can live in the skin folds of the foreskin.
Yeast infections can cause an inflammation of the head of the penis (aka balanitis). This can look like redness, irritation, itching, and dry areas or white spots on the penis. You might also notice a thick, white substance in the folds of your penis. Usually, yeast infections will go away on their own after a few days. However, you can use an over the counter anti-fungal cream to help them on their way. If you think you might have a yeast infection, we recommend seeing a healthcare provider. They can make sure it is actually a yeast infection, and not something else going on.
Using condoms will make sure that you don’t get your girlfriend’s yeast infection, even though (again) this is incredibly rare!
Condoms are a great idea anyway, since they protect you both from sexually transmitted infections (STIs, sometimes called sexually transmitted diseases or STDs) and prevent pregnancy.
Have more questions about sexual health and how to take care of your body? If you’re 10-22 years old in NYC, stop by the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for free, confidential, nonjudgmental health care.
ABOUT YOU ASKED IT
You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers. At the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, we answer a lot of questions. Topics range from nutrition to pregnancy prevention, and everything in between. Now, we’re bringing these questions back to you with our weekly advice column, You Asked It. Got a question? Holler at us in the comments, send us a message on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or email us at [email protected] and put “You Asked It” in the subject line.
This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.
Missed a “You Asked It” post? Click on “You Asked it” under Topics.
Telling Your Partner About a Yeast Infection
A vaginal yeast infection can be uncomfortable to have and equally uncomfortable to talk about with your partner. To make handling both easier, start by getting educated about yeast infection treatment, symptoms, and causes. The more you and your partner know about this common type of infection, the better you’ll both be able to deal with it.
One thing that makes starting the conversation less awkward is the knowledge that a yeast infection is very common. In fact, two out of three women will have a yeast infection during their lives. Yeast infections are nothing to be ashamed of.
“You should start by telling your partner that vaginal yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted disease,” says Wiyatta Freeman, MD, a gynecologist at Baylor Medical Center in Irving, Texas. The yeast that causes vaginal yeast infection is a type of fungus called Candida albicans. These fungi do not usually come from sexual contact — they are most likely already living in your vaginal area and have simply overgrown.
You can tell your partner that the most common causes of yeast infection include:
- Eating too much sugar
- Having your period
- Taking antibiotics
- Taking birth control pills
Although yeast infections are not usually caused or spread by sex, a small percentage of men — less than 15 percent — may experience itching, burning, or a red rash on the tip of the penis from unprotected sex with a woman who has a yeast infection. Men who are uncircumcised may have a slightly higher risk. If your partner has yeast infection symptoms too, he should see his doctor.
What to Tell Your Partner About Yeast Infection Symptoms
During a yeast infection, you might not feel like having sex. “Yeast infection symptoms can make vaginal sex uncomfortable, and irritation from vaginal sex could make your infection worse,” says Dr. Freeman. “You should tell your partner that you need to refrain from sex until your yeast infection symptoms have cleared up.”
Explain that common symptoms of yeast infection include:
- Pain during vaginal sex
- Soreness in the vaginal area
What to Tell Your Partner About Yeast Infection Treatment
Your partner may feel better knowing about the effectiveness of medications. “Yeast infection treatment is usually successful and the infection should clear up fairly quickly,” says Freeman. However, she cautions, “Some yeast infection treatment involves medicine that is put into the vagina, and sexual intercourse could interfere with this type of yeast infection treatment.”
You can also share this information about yeast infection treatment:
- Your yeast infection may only need an over-the-counter vaginal cream or suppository.
- You will usually need to use the medication for three to seven days.
- If over-the-counter medications are not working, your doctor can give you a prescription medication that will help.
- If this is your first episode of a yeast infection, you should see your doctor to be sure that is what you have before using an over-the-counter medication for it.
“It’s always important to let your doctor know about a yeast infection that does not respond to over-the-counter yeast infection treatment or if you get frequent yeast infections,” says Freeman. “In some cases, yeast infection symptoms may be caused by a more serious problem that needs to be investigated.”
Once you and your partner understand the causes of yeast infection and how yeast infection treatment can help, your conversation should go a lot more smoothly and you both should feel much better.
Is it safe to have oral sex if you have a yeast infection.
The answer to this isn’t a simple yes or no. If you have a yeast infection in your vagina, it’s fine to give someone else oral sex. But it’s probably a good idea to hold off on receiving oral sex until your yeast infection is cleared up.
It isn’t quite clear to scientists whether having oral or vaginal sex when you have a yeast infection makes your partner more likely to get a yeast infection as well. It is possible to get a yeast infection in your mouth (when this happens, it’s called thrush). To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to take your vagina out of commission until your yeast infection clears up.
If you do have sex, use a dental dam for oral sex or a condom for vaginal sex. And if you get yeast infections regularly, it’s a good idea to use dental dams and condoms in general, to avoid contact with the yeast in your partner’s body.
Vaginal yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of fungus — usually of one called candida — in the vagina. That might sound a little gross, but most people have some amount of candida in their genital area all the time. But under certain conditions, the yeast can grow too much and throw off your bacterial balance, and voila! A yeast infection is born.
While they can be uncomfortable, yeast infections are really common and easy to treat. If you’ve had yeast infections before and recognize the symptoms, you can find treatment over the counter at your local drugstore. If you’ve never had a yeast infection before or want to make sure that’s what you’ve actually got, visit your health care provider/local Planned Parenthood health center so that you can get treatment and start feeling better as soon as possible. Learn more about yeast infections.
Tags: oral sex, safer sex, vaginitis, yeast infection
Those sex practices — oral sex performed on a woman and masturbation with saliva — don’t actually spread yeast infections, researchers report. Instead, they may in some women create conditions that let yeast grow out of control.
University of Michigan researcher Barbara D. Reed, MD, MSPH, led the study of 148 women and 78 of their male sex partners.
“Many physicians — and many women — believe that women get recurrent yeast infections because their partner passes the yeast back to them during intercourse. This study refutes that belief,” Reed says in a news release.
All of the women originally were treated for candidayeast infections. Reed’s team collected culture samples from the women’s tongue, feces, vulva, and vagina and from their sex partners’ tongue, feces, urine, and semen.
The women had check-ups at two weeks, four weeks, six months, and a year — as well as whenever they had a yeast infection. Whenever a woman had symptoms of a yeast infection, her sex partner was checked as well.
Yeast can live peacefully in the vagina without overgrowing and causing the intense itching and burning that indicate candida vulvovaginitis or yeast infection. Reed’s team confirmed this. Women found to have yeast in their vaginas during follow-up visits were no more likely than other women to have recurring symptoms of yeast infection.
Detection of yeast in male sex partners had nothing to do with whether women had recurring yeast infections.
However, sex behaviors showed a strong connection. Cunnilingus — oral sex performed on a woman — tripled the women’s risk of recurring yeast infections. And masturbation with saliva — both by women and by their sex partners — doubled women’s risk of recurring yeast infection.
Reed and colleagues suggest that a delicate balance exists between yeast, normal vaginal bacteria, and vaginal immune mechanisms.
“We suggest that the effects of genital washing with saliva — from either the male or the female — might upset this balance,” they write in the December issue of the Journal of Women’s Health.
The study also showed two other things that increase a woman’s risk of recurring yeast infections: Eating two or more servings of bread each day, and their male sex partners who first had sex at an early age. It’s not yet entirely clear how these factors play a role in yeast infections.
SOURCE: Reed, B.D. Journal of Women’s Health, December 2003; vol 12: pp 979-990.
Vaginal Yeast Infection Signs and Symptoms
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection is the first step to getting treatment.
Signature symptoms of a yeast infection include uncomfortable itching and burning in the vaginal area. Alain Daussin/Getty Images
Candida is a yeast (a type of fungus) commonly found on the skin and in the body, including the mouth, throat, gut, and vagina.
In fact, research indicates that Candida yeast colonizes the vagina of at least 20 percent of all women — and 30 percent of all pregnant women — without causing symptoms.
But if Candida yeast (especially Candida albicans) becomes overgrown, a vaginal yeast infection may develop. These infections — also known as candidal vaginitis, vaginal candidiasis, or vulvovaginal candidiasis — typically cause a number of noticeable symptoms, which are the same for nonpregnant and pregnant women. (1)
What Are the Symptoms of a Vaginal Yeast Infection?
Vaginal yeast infection symptoms commonly include:
- Itching in the vaginal area and around the vulva (the opening of the vagina)
- Burning in the vaginal area
- Swelling of the vulva
- White or gray vaginal discharge that may be thick (sometimes described as looking like cottage cheese) but does not have a bad smell
- Greenish or yellowish vaginal discharge that’s also similar to cottage cheese and smells like yeast or bread
- Burning during urination
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Vulvar rash (2,3,4)
Most vaginal yeast infections do not produce a strong vaginal odor. Fishy vaginal odors are more common with bacterial vaginosis, a type of bacterial infection of the vagina. (5)
Severe yeast infections may also cause redness and tears or cracks (fissures) in the wall of the vagina. (6)
How Is a Yeast Infection Diagnosed?
As straightforward as it might seem, most doctors will discourage you from diagnosing and treating a yeast infection yourself.
This is because vaginal infections caused by bacteria, as well as some sexually transmitted infections (STI), may have symptoms very similar to those caused by yeast, but they require different treatments. Since yeast infection treatments have become available over the counter (OTC), many women simply visit the closest drugstore and buy an antifungal cream.
But sometimes these products are bought and used by women who don’t actually have a vaginal yeast infection, wasting time and money and potentially worsening the vaginal itchiness and irritation. (7)
One study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that only 34 percent of study participants who purchased OTC antifungal products accurately diagnosed themselves with a yeast infection.
The other women in the study actually had other types of vaginal inflammation, including bacterial vaginosis and the STI trichomonas vaginalis. (8)
This misdiagnosis of vaginal infections is an important issue: Just as some bacteria are becoming resistant to certain antibiotics, yeast that normally lives in the vagina can become resistant to antifungal medication.
If this happens, it can become very difficult to treat a yeast infection when one actually does develop. (9)
Because of this, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that, for a first episode of a possible yeast infection, women see a physician to get a proper diagnosis. (10)
If a woman has had a physician-diagnosed yeast infection in the past and feels certain that her current symptoms are caused by a yeast infection, it’s reasonable to ask her doctor about self-treatment with an OTC medication.
However, if symptoms don’t improve or they come back again, or if symptoms are different from past yeast infections, an office visit is warranted. (10)
What Doctors Look For When They Suspect a Yeast Infection
At your doctor’s office, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and your overall medical history, including past vaginal infections and sexually transmitted diseases.
You doctor will then conduct a gynecological exam to check for redness, swelling, discharge, and odor.
Your doctor will perform a pelvic exam, which will include inspecting your vagina and vulva to see if there are external signs of infection, such as swelling and redness, and cracks in the skin of the vulva.
Your doctor will also examine your cervix for swelling and redness, and your vaginal walls for dry, white spots.
To get a concrete diagnosis, your doctor will likely take a sample of your vaginal secretions and examine it under a microscope. (3,4)
Tests That Help Determine Yeast Infection Presence
The two most common tests for a yeast infection are the vaginal wet mount and the KOH test.
For the vaginal wet mount, your doctor or a lab technician will mix a sample of your vaginal discharge with a salt solution, put it onto a glass slide, and look at it under a microscope.
If there are an abnormally large number of Candida microbes and white blood cells (which indicate your body is fighting an infection), you have a yeast infection.
The wet mount can also help rule out other infections, including bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis.
Instead of using a salt solution, the KOH test uses potassium hydroxide.
This solution kills bacteria and vaginal cells, leaving only the fungus that may be present in your vagina. If a fishy or amine odor arises from the KOH, you may have bacterial vaginosis. (11)
If, after diagnosis, your infection doesn’t get better with treatment or comes back several more times within a year (a condition called recurrent or chronic yeast infection), your doctor may order a culture test of your yeast.
A culture test will help determine if a Candida species other than C. albicans is causing your chronic infection (such as C. glabrata or C. krusei) — some yeast species are resistant to the drugs used to treat a C. albicans infection. (7)
Symptoms of Other Types of Yeast Infections
Though the term “yeast infection” most often refers to those affecting the vulvovaginal area, symptomatic yeast infections can also develop on the skin (cutaneous candidiasis), in the mouth and throat (thrush), in the esophagus (candida esophagitis), and on the penis (balanitis).
Cutaneous candidiasis most often causes intense itching, as well as a pimple-like infection of the hair follicles and a rash on various areas of the skin, including the skin folds, genitals, abdominal region, buttocks, and under the breasts. (12)
Common symptoms of thrush and candida esophagitis include:
- White patches on various parts of the mouth and throat
- Redness or soreness and pain while eating or swallowing
- Feeling like you have cotton in your mouth
- Loss of taste
- Cracking at the corners of the mouth (13)
In men, balanitis can cause:
- Inflamed, red glans (rounded part at the end of the penis)
- Painful urination
- Itching and unpleasant smell
- Foreskin issues, such as a thick and lumpy discharge or a tightness that prevents pulling back the foreskin to its original position (14)