Unveiling the Truth: Clearing Up Misconceptions about Yeast Infections
There are many common myths and misconceptions about yeast infections. And if you believe any of these, don’t feel bad. Growing up, we’re not typically taught much about this part of our body. With different types of discharge, changes in scents or odors coming from the genital area, and so many types of ailments and infections that can occur, it’s hard to know what’s what.
We’re here to give you the facts, so that if you ever have a yeast infection you’ll know what to do.
What exactly is a yeast infection?
Everyone has yeast in their body. In the vagina, specifically, lives a yeast called Candida which normally stays in balance along with bacteria there. Taking antibiotics, for example, can reduce the bacteria that help keep yeast in check. When too much yeast grows, that balance is thrown off and you end up with a fungal infection—a yeast infection.
Antibiotics are not the only thing that can cause a yeast infection, though. Yeast infections can be caused by a high-sugar diet, weight gain, or sweat or moisture that’s trapped in tight clothing for too long. People with diabetes and other conditions that weaken the immune system may be prone to yeast infections, as well.
Even though yeast infections are not considered sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the yeast can be passed to your partner causing an imbalance that leads to that person having a yeast infection too.
(Learn more about Common Triggers and Causes of Yeast Infections and How to Avoid Them.)
Do you have a yeast infection?
Answer a few questions and find out what your symptoms mean.
Do yeast infections smell bad?
Many people think odor is a symptom of a yeast infection. In most cases, it is not. In fact, if you suddenly have a change in odor or sense a strong odor from your genital area, you could have a urinary tract infection (UTI) or a different kind of vaginal infection such as bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis. A change in the smell of vaginal discharge could be due to an STI.
What are the signs of a yeast infection?
Now you know that odor is not typically a symptom of a yeast infection, the question is what are the signs? What does a yeast infection feel like?
Most people who have a yeast infection have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Itching in and around the vagina
- Discharge that may be thick, white, and lumpy like cottage cheese
- Redness, swelling, or rash around the vagina
- Burning, soreness, or pain
- Pain when urinating or having sex
If you have pain when peeing and none of the other symptoms listed here, you might instead have a UTI. Learn how to tell the difference in our “Is It a UTI or Yeast Infection” article.
If your discharge is a different color, you may have a different sort of infection, so you’ll want to call your doctor.
Who can get a yeast infection?
Yeast infections don’t just occur in women. Almost anyone of any age or gender can get a yeast infection. And no, you don’t have to be sexually active (remember, it’s not considered an STI). For example, some diaper rashes in babies and toddlers are caused by yeast infections that come about because a wet or soiled diaper may have been left on too long. In older ages, women may experience recurring yeast infections due to changes in hormones that affect the vagina.
Men, too, can have yeast infections, and most commonly occur in those who have an uncircumcised penis.
How long does it take for a yeast infection to go away?
Yeast infections can be relatively easy to treat and can go away within a few days to a week. If you’ve had a vaginal yeast infection before and are confident you have one again, you can simply use an over-the-counter treatment like MONISTAT® 1-Day, 3-Day, or 7-Day treatments. Choose from creams (with prefilled applicators), vaginal suppositories, or our Ovule® inserts. Once you start treatment, you should feel some relief of symptoms within the first few days.
Not everyone should jump right to an over-the-counter treatment though. You should go to a doctor first for treatment if you:
- Have not had a yeast infection before;
- Tend to have frequent yeast infections;
- Are pregnant;
- Have diabetes or any condition that weakens your immune system; or
- Have finished yeast infection treatment but still have symptoms.
Because yeast infections share some symptoms with other vaginal infections and STIs, you might want to use our Symptom Checker as a first step to help figure out if you have a yeast infection. If you are still not sure, then talking to your doctor should be your next step.
If you have more questions about yeast infections, treatments, or vaginal health, in general, browse through our FAQs. It’s a great resource for you to continue to come back to any time you have questions.