Men and yeast infections

Thrush in men.

Thrush is an infection with a fungus. It is also known as a yeast infection. The fungus, called Candida, occurs naturally in the body, particularly in warm, moist areas such as the mouth and genitals.

The following information is about thrush in and around the penis. For information about thrush infections of the groin go to our male groin – irritation and infection page.

Candida normally does not cause any problems because it is kept under control by the immune system and by other bacteria in the body. However, some factors such as skin irritation, taking antibiotics or poorly controlled diabetes can allow the fungus to multiply, which can lead to symptoms.

Many people already have a small amount of candida in their bodies and on their skin. This is normal.

Symptoms of thrush in men

The most common symptoms are:

  • a very itchy, red, and sore head of your penis (glans)
  • small red spots on the head of your penis (glans)
  • discharge from your penis
  • pain when passing urine
  • difficultly pulling back your foreskin
  • a ‘cheese-like’ substance that smells yeasty and sometimes collects under your foreskin

In some men, thrush also causes their foreskin to swell and crack. This is probably caused by an allergy to the yeast.

Treatments for thrush in men

If you have thrush in and around the penis, practising good hygiene can help to clear up the infection.

  • Clean the infected area carefully, preferably in the shower rather than a bath. Make sure you dry the area well by patting it rather than rubbing it. This will help reduce the build-up of moisture in the area and make it more difficult for the fungus to survive.
  • Don’t use sprays, soaps, oils, disinfectants, shower gels or deodorants around the affected area, as these can cause further irritation.
  • Avoid sharing your towels.
  • Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear to help to keep your genitals dry and cool, and prevent the build-up of the fungus.

You should also visit a pharmacy where you can buy an anti-fungal cream. Make sure you follow the dosage directions on the patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine. A single-dose pill treatment is also available on prescription. See your doctor to discuss the best treatment option.

If you are in pain, get advice on pain relief medicines you can take.

If these treatments don’t work or if you often get thrush, see a doctor as you may have other health problems or a drug-resistant type of Candida. Your doctor may also test for sexually transmissible infections, which can cause similar symptoms.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your thrush in men, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Candida infection of the skin

The body normally hosts a variety of germs, including bacteria and fungi. Some of these are useful to the body, some produce no harm or benefit, and some can cause harmful infections.

Some fungal infections are caused by fungi that often live on the hair, nails, and outer skin layers. They include yeast-like fungi such as candida. Sometimes, these yeast penetrate beneath the surface of the skin and cause infection.

In cutaneous candidiasis, the skin is infected with candida fungi. This type of infection is fairly common. It can involve almost any skin on the body, but most often it occurs in warm, moist, creased areas such as the armpits and groin. The fungus that most often causes cutaneous candidiasis is Candida albicans.

Candida is the most common cause of diaper rash in infants. The fungi take advantage of the warm, moist conditions inside the diaper. Candida infection is also particularly common in people with diabetes and in those who are obese. Antibiotics, steroid therapy, and chemotherapy increase the risk of cutaneous candidiasis. Candida can also cause infections of the nails, edges of the nails, and corners of the mouth.

Oral thrush, a form of candida infection of the moist lining of the mouth, usually occurs when people take antibiotics. It may also be a sign of an HIV infection or other weakened immune system disorders when it occurs in adults. Individuals with candida infections are not usually contagious, though in some settings people with weakened immune systems may catch the infection.

Candida is also the most frequent cause of vaginal yeast infections. These infections are common and often occur with antibiotic use.

Self-Care at Home

Most candidal (yeast) infections can be treated at home with over-the-counter or prescription medication and will clear up within a week. If some other disease has weakened a person’s immune system, the person should consult a doctor about any new symptoms before attempting self-treatment because of the risk of infection.

  • Vaginal yeast infections
    • Most women can treat vaginal yeast infections at home with nonprescription vaginal creams or suppositories.
    • A single dose of fluconazole (Diflucan) tablet also cures most vaginal yeast infections. Fluconazole requires a prescription from your physician.
  • Thrush
    • For thrush, swish the antifungal agent nystatin around in your mouth then swallow the liquid. Take care to maintain excellent oral hygiene.
    • All objects put into a child’s mouth should be washed or sterilized after each use.
    • Breastfeeding mothers should be evaluated for Candida infection of the breast.
    • If you wear dentures, clean them thoroughly after each use and practice good oral hygiene.
    • Adults and older children have several treatment options not available to babies, such as troches (antifungal lozenges) or pills such as fluconazole (Diflucan) to help clear the infection in addition to nystatin.
  • Skin and diaper rash
    • Clotrimazole (Lotrimin) creams and lotions can be applied to superficial skin infections. Other medications require a prescription and a visit to your doctor.
    • Other antifungal creams, such as ketoconazole (Nizoral), which is available by prescription, is helpful as well.
    • For paronychia, a skin rash around the nails, avoiding moisture can be helpful. Oral itraconazole (Sporanox) or fluconazole (Diflucan) can also be helpful and can be prescribed by a doctor. Topical antifungal and topical corticosteroids are also used.
    • Perlèche is treated with topical antiyeast or antifungal agents, and often with a mild corticosteroid cream. Limit lip licking of the corners of the mouth. Placing a bit of petroleum jelly on top of the antiyeast agents can be helpful as well.
    • The affected area should be kept clean and dry.
    • For diaper rashes, frequent diaper changes and the use of barrier creams speed recovery .
    • Intertrigo can benefit from the use of nystatin powder, which decreases the amount of moisture and also acts as an antiyeast agent.

Yeast infections are no fun – but they do happen to pretty much all women. And while the itching, burning, and white, odorless discharge that comes with it can be frustrating, effective remedies are available to quickly treat and relieve your symptoms.

First off, yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of a microscopic yeast called Candida albicans, which normally already lives in the vagina. To manage symptoms, you can start with over-the-counter creams, but you should place a call to your doctor as we may have better prescription options. Uncomplicated yeast infections usually respond to treatment within a couple of days. If your symptoms keep getting worse or last longer than that, call for another appointment.

In my experience, the best treatment comes down to medicated creams or a pill. Studies show that these creams and the oral pill, fluconazole, both work more than 90% of the time.

  • Over-the-counter creams. A variety of topical preparations are available over the counter and come in single-dose, 3-day, and 7-day regimens. Monistat and Gyne-Lotrimin come in 3- and 7-day preparations, and both work well.
  • Prescription creams. Two topical yeast medications require a prescription. Butoconazole (Gynazole-1) cream is used as a single dose — one time and you’re done. It’s expensive. Terconazole (Terazol or Zazole), also available by prescription, comes in 3- and 7-day regimens.
  • The yeast infection pill. The treatment of choice is a single 150 mg oral dose of fluconazole (Diflucan). Most women consider the pill more convenient than creams applied intravaginally. A cool fact is that a single 150 mg dose of fluconazole maintains effective, therapeutic concentrations in vaginal secretions for at least 72 hours after you take it.

The upsides of creams?

Creams are available over the counter and have few side effects, whereas the fluconazole single-dose pill may cause upset stomach, headache, and rash. The fluconazole single-dose pill may also take a day or two longer than topical therapy to relieve symptoms.

The upsides of the pill?

Generic fluconazole as a single dose is less expensive than over-the-counter topical antifungals. Also, fungal resistance to fluconazole is not common, so it’s still very effective. And again, patients seem to prefer oral treatment over creams.

Dr O.

  • Not every man who comes in contact with vaginal thrush will be affected by thrush himself; as thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection.

    There are two groups who are particularly vulnerable:

    • Men with a foreskin constriction
    • Men with a weakened immune system.

    The fungus Candida albicans, which occurs naturally in the body of healthy individuals, tends to multiply in warm and moist conditions, which is why genital thrush is much less common in men than in women; it does not usually reproduce well on the glans (head of the penis).

    However, if the foreskin is narrowed, the fungi can encounter favourable conditions to multiply. In addition, the foreskin constriction makes cleaning more difficult. That is why thrush is less common among circumcised men.

    As listed above, those people with weak immune responses can be particularly affected by yeast fungi, with men suffering from diabetes being at higher risk due to the levels of glucose associated with diabetes encouraging the fungus to breed.

    You may also be more prone to thrush if you’ve just finished a course of antibiotics.

    Yeast Infections: 101

    Get the Facts About Vaginal Yeast Infection Symptoms and Treatment

    Of all the “down there” drama a woman has to endure, vaginal yeast infections (candidiasis) rank high on the scale.

    And chances are you’ve had to deal with one yourself: Three out of every four women will have at least one yeast infection during their lifetime, and about 45 percent of women will have two or more infections. In fact, yeast infections are one of the most prevalent types of infections that strike women. Yet, despite being so common, yeast infections are still largely misunderstood. Learn more about what causes a vaginal yeast infection, signs you may have one and how to treat it.

    What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?

    Yeast infections are a type of vaginitis or inflammation of the vagina and vulva (the area surrounding the vagina). These infections are rarely a serious health issue, but they can cause bothersome symptoms such as:

    • Vaginal itching
    • Burning or soreness inside or around the vagina
    • Redness and swelling of the vulva
    • Thick, whitish, clumpy vaginal discharge that may resemble cottage cheese
    • Pain when urinating or during sex
    • A rash on the vulva

    What causes a yeast infection?

    Yeast is a type of fungus (called Candida albicans) that’s always present in small amounts in the body. It lives in the mouth, gastrointestinal tract and vagina, usually without causing any symptoms. Bacteria are also present in the vagina (and throughout the body). Acid produced by the bacteria helps keep the yeast from overgrowing. However, many different things can throw off this healthy balance. When an overgrowth of yeast cells occurs, an infection forms.

    “Any woman can develop a yeast infection,” says Ingrid Rodi, MD, associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. And sex is rarely the culprit. Most yeast infections are caused by a weakened immune system, she explains.

    Other factors can also throw off the balance of bacteria in the vagina—such as a change in the normal acidity (pH) level of the vagina or hormonal fluctuations—and bring on a yeast infection, including:

    • Using antibiotics, birth control pills or steroids
    • Menstruation
    • Pregnancy
    • Stress
    • Sleep deprivation
    • Illness
    • Using douches or feminine hygiene sprays
    • Wearing tight, poorly ventilated, synthetic underwear or pants

    “Some serious medical conditions put certain women at a higher risk for infection,” adds Rodi. “The most common of these is diabetes.” High sugar levels, such as those associated with diabetes, encourages the yeast to grow.

    Though not as common a culprit, bad eating habits, including eating extreme amounts of sugar, can also fuel a yeast infection.

    Can I get a yeast infection from having sex, or give one to my partner?

    Yeast infections are not considered a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI). (This is because yeast infections can happen in women who aren’t sexually active and the candida fungus is naturally present in the vagina, along with other places in the body.)

    Though it is less common, “it is possible to transmit a yeast infection through sexual contact, whether oral or genital,” cautions Ronald Woodward, MD, an ob-gyn practicing in Glendale, California, with more than 20 years of experience treating patients. In fact, 12 to 15 percent of men get an itchy rash on the tip of their penis after having unprotected sex with an infected partner, and some research shows that lesbians may have a higher risk for infection.

    If I think I have a yeast infection, what should I do?

    If you have symptoms of a yeast infection, call your doctor to make an appointment. Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are similar to those of some STIs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, two types of STIs that can have serious health consequences if left untreated, so getting an accurate diagnosis is key.

    If you’ve previously had a yeast infection diagnosed by a doctor and your current symptoms are the same, your doctor may not need to see you in person and may just prescribe a treatment over the phone. Or your doctor may suggest you try treating the infection using an over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal product.

    However, if there’s any doubt that you have a yeast infection, check with your doctor. Studies show that two-thirds of women who use OTC treatments don’t really have a yeast infection. Taking the wrong medication can make your existing health condition worse. And you want to be sure you’re treating the true cause of your symptoms.

    How are yeast infections diagnosed?

    During your appointment, your doctor will perform a pelvic exam to look for signs of a yeast infection, such as swelling and discharge. Your doctor will also likely take a swab of fluid from your vagina and examine it under a microscope to determine if yeast is the culprit.

    How are yeast infections treated?

    Yeast infections are treated using OTC or prescription antifungal medications. Note that taking antifungal medication is the only way to clear up a yeast infection.

    There are several different types of antifungal medicines: creams that are applied directly to the vaginal area, pills that are taken by mouth (fluconazole) or suppositories (butoconazole, miconazole, clotrimazole and tioconazole) that are inserted into the vagina.

    OTC antifungal creams, ointments, tablets and suppositories are effective in clearing up most yeast infections. Some medications require a one-time application, while others involve taking the medication for three days or longer. Follow the directions on the box carefully and talk to the pharmacist if you have questions.

    If your symptoms don’t go away after taking an OTC treatment, call your doctor. Sometimes a prescription oral antifungal medication is needed to successfully treat a yeast infection.

    I get yeast infections often. Is that a problem?

    If you have frequent yeast infections—four or more in one year—your doctor may diagnose you with recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC). In this case, you’ll likely need long-term, prescription treatment for up to six months to get rid of the infection. RVVC is most common in women with diabetes or weakened immune systems.

    Can I have sex while I’m being treated for a yeast infection?

    You should abstain from vaginal intercourse and from receiving oral sex while you are being treated for a yeast infection. This is to make sure the medicine has a chance to do its work (especially if you are using an antifungal cream or suppository) and to make sure that the infection is not passed along to your partner.

    Can eating yogurt help cure a yeast infection?

    “The bacteria present in yogurt inhibit the growth of yeast, and eating yogurt can definitely be helpful in preventing yeast infections,” says Woodward. “However, as a treatment for an already established infection, eating yogurt is less helpful.”

    Does douching help treat a yeast infection?

    Don’t fall for the myth that douching—or douching with yogurt, as some old wives’ tales have it—will treat a yeast infection. Douching can actually worsen an existing infection and raise your risk for future infections.

    How can I prevent getting a yeast infection?

    To help lower your chance of getting a yeast infection, practice good feminine hygiene. The following habits can keep the bacteria in your vagina balanced and help prevent yeast infections:

    • Don’t use douches or scented feminine products like sprays with fragrance, scented tampons or pads, or scented bubble baths.
    • Change pads and tampons often during your period.
    • Always wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom.
    • Wear cotton underwear.
    • Avoid wearing tight-fitting, synthetic underwear or pants.
    • Change out of swimsuits and sweaty exercise clothes as soon as you can. (Moist, humid environments are ideal for yeast growth.)
    • Stay out of hot tubs and very hot baths. Take a shower instead.
    • Don’t take antibiotics unless they’re necessary because they kill both good and bad bacteria.
    • If you have diabetes, HIV or AIDS, follow your care plan as prescribed by your doctor.

    Jenilee Matz is a medical writer, health educator and triathlete based in Charlotte, NC.

    Reviewed by Elaine Brown, MD on January 10, 2014


    Rodi, Ingrid, MD. Associate Clinical Professor of OB/GYN, Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

    Woodward, Ronald, MD. Partner and Provider, Obstetrics and Gynecology Medical Group of Verdugo Hills.


    Expected Duration

    Most cases of balanitis respond to treatment within three to five days.


    Men who are uncircumcised should practice good hygiene, including fully retracting the foreskin during bathing. People with diabetes can help to prevent balanitis by carefully controlling their blood sugar.


    Treatment depends on the cause.

    If your problem is caused by a yeast infection, you will be advised to use an antifungal cream. Clotrimazole (Lotrimin, Mycelex) is a very effective over-the-counter medication, which is also used for treating vaginal yeast infections and athlete’s foot. Apply it to the affected area two to three times daily for 10 days. Your doctor also may recommend a prescription antifungal treatment, either in a cream or pill form.

    If you have an infection with skin bacteria, you will be told to use an antibiotic cream, and to make sure you clean the area thoroughly. Occasionally antibiotic pills may be necessary.

    When the skin is inflamed, but not infected, you will be advised to keep the area clean and dry and to avoid any soaps or skin lotions that may be aggravating the condition. Sometimes a cortisone cream can help to improve the problem more quickly. However, cortisone can make certain infections worse, so it is best to avoid this type of medication unless it is prescribed by a physician.

    Circumcision often prevents repeated infections, especially in uncircumcised men who have a tight, difficult-to-retract foreskin. Once effective treatment begins, you usually do not need to avoid sex, although sexual contact can chafe or inflame the affected area. Rarely, sexual contact can pass an infection back and forth between partners. If this occurs, both partners may require treatment at the same time to prevent further episodes.

    When To Call A Professional

    Contact your physician if:

    • You develop balanitis that does not respond to hygiene measures and an over-the-counter antifungal medication

    • Your physician’s prescription does not appear to be curing your condition

    • The balanitis keeps returning

    • You have diabetes, because balanitis may be a signal that your blood sugar is not well controlled.


    The outlook is excellent if the problem is treated.

    Learn more about Balanitis

    Associated drugs

    • Balanoposthitis

    IBM Watson Micromedex

    • Balanitis

    External resources

    Further information

    Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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