Yeast isn't just found in bread — it can also be found in everybody’s genitals. Everyone has it, but it only causes an issue when it becomes out of balance with your body’s natural pH.
Vaginal candidiasis, or yeast infection, is a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva. This is NOT considered an STI. They’re super common, and affect three-fourths of vagina owners at least once in their lifetime. Many people experience at least two episodes. There are over-the-counter medications that can treat them; however, you should always go to your doctor first, and if you experience recurrent ones, then you should talk to your doctor about different treatments and treatment plans.
For those with a penis, the yeast infection is referred to as candidal (or candida) balanitis. It affects the head of the penis mostly, but can also affect foreskin and the shaft depending on the intensity. For symptoms, you should usually look for burning or itching around the head (especially after having penetrative sex), redness, swelling, small bumps that may contain pus and pain during urination or sex. If you have a foreskin, you may also have difficulty cleaning or moving the foreskin. Unlike with vaginal yeast infections, penile yeast infections are usually acquired through sexual intercourse, but are generally easily treated. Additionally, you may acquire a yeast infection through skin problems or taking certain kinds of antibiotics (which can cause imbalance for the body’s natural genital pH).
You might have a yeast infection in your vagina if you notice these symptoms: Itching and irritation, burning during sex or urination, redness and swelling of the vulva, pain and soreness, a vaginal rash, thick, white, cottage cheese-like discharge or very watery discharge. All people’s discharge is different however. Always ask your doctor about sudden changes in discharge.
Yeast infections are caused by an imbalance in the natural bacteria and strains of yeast inside the vagina. It becomes an infection when the yeast becomes more present than the bacteria that normally keeps it in check. This imbalance can be caused by a number of things, including antibiotic use, which causes an imbalance in the natural vaginal flora, pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes, an impaired immune system or taking oral contraceptives or hormone therapy that increase estrogen levels.
Remember as well that yeast and bacteria flourish in a damp, warm environment. So, if you fit into any of the above criteria, you can take steps to prevent yeast infections from occurring. Mayo Clinic and Healthline both recommend wearing slightly looser fitting underwear that has a cotton panel in the crotch, as well as avoiding super tight-fitting tights or leggings and being sure to change out of wet or damp workout clothing or swimsuits as soon as you’re done. Additionally, refrain from taking extremely hot showers or baths, because the hot, wet environment can exacerbate the issue. You should also refrain from douching. The vagina is self-cleaning, and does not require help in its job. Douching the vagina can only cause worse issues.
You should definitely avoid having sex if you believe you may have a yeast infection of any kind. Bacteria thrives in moist environments, and genitals are the perfect breeding spot. Having sex with a partner may unbalance your partner’s pH, and you will be exposing them to the risk of infection as well. It’s best to just wait it out. Mild infections can have symptoms disappear after only a few days of treatment, while more moderate to severe infections may last anywhere from one to three weeks.
If you think you may have a yeast infection, the best first step is to see a professional. The kind of doctor associated with genital health is a gynecologist for vaginas, and urologists specialize in penile care. Many options are available as well for those who wish to treat at home, such as antifungal treatments (here is a link for over-the-counter treatment of the penis). However, it should be acknowledged that you should check with your general practitioner to address any risks and seek medical attention if symptoms persist for more than the amount of time recommended on the package.
Do you have a question about sex, sexuality, or relationships? You can ask us to find you accurate and reliable information from experts by tweeting @SEATUTK, direct messaging @Sexweekut on Facebook or submitting a question to our anonymous Google form.
Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.