NurseAsk Nurse Lisa

Vaginal Yeast Infections

Quick Fact: A yeast infection is NOT an STI

What is a yeast infection?

Yeast infections can happen to anyone, even those who are not sexually active. Yeast infections happen most often in the vagina and are caused by Candida albicans.

Symptoms include:

  • Itching or pain in the vagina
  • Redness, swelling, or itching of the vulva – folds of skin outside the vagina
  • Thick, white, “cottage cheese” discharge that usually has no smell but can smell like bread or yeast
  • Pain or burning while peeing or during sex

If you are experiencing any symptoms, see your doctor to get treated.

How can I get it?

Yeast can over grow because of:

  • Stress
  • Taking antibiotics
  • Pregnancy
  • Prior to menstruation or periods, because of hormone changes
  • Tight clothing or underwear
  • Nylon- or polyester-material underwear, which traps heat and moisture
  • Using perfume or scented soaps or douching
  • Having uncontrolled diabetes, because yeast grow easier with high blood sugar

A yeast infection is NOT a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Rarely, yeast infections can spread during sex from one person to another.

With people who have a penis, infections are more rare but can still happen. These infections are usually on the head of the penis or beneath the foreskin if uncircumcised. Keeping these areas clean and dry can help prevent a yeast infection. People with diabetes or taking antibiotics can get yeast infections more often.

If someone with a penis has a yeast infection, they may experience:

  • Redness, pain, or itching on the tip of the penis
  • Slight discharge or pain while peeing

How can I get treated?

If you have any symptoms, see your health care provider! They can make the right diagnosis and figure out if you have a yeast infection or not. Your provider may collect a urine sample to make sure the infection is not a UTI, and may swab the vagina to examine the discharge under a microscope.

If you have a yeast infection, your doctor may prescribe a pill, cream, or suppository to put in the vagina. If you are using a cream or suppository, you should wait to have sexually intercourse until after your treatment. The medication weakens condoms and diaphragms.

You can buy medications and tests for yeast infections at the store or local drugstore, but they are expensive. Going to a healthcare provider can let you know if you have other infections going on. If not properly treated, you can develop other infections because of the yeast infection. Also, store bought or “over the counter” (OTC) medications should not be used by anyone younger than 12 or anyone who might be pregnant.

What happens if I don’t get treated?

The sooner you get treated for yeast infections, the sooner they disappear. They can lower your immune system function, which may cause you to get sick in other ways.

How do I avoid getting a vaginal yeast infection?

  • Avoid wearing tight clothing, stretchy exercise gear or pantyhose.
  • Avoid wearing nylon/polyester material underwear, which traps heat and moisture; all-cotton underwear are best.
  • Don’t use vaginal perfumes or douches.
  • Avoid using strong, perfumed soaps or bubble baths which irritate the vaginal area, or washing too deeply with soap. Taking showers or plain baths are best.
  • Change tampons and pads regularly during periods.
  • Keep the vaginal area dry.
  • Don’t take leftover antibiotics or someone else’s antibiotics.
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar levels under control.

Get Help

For general resources about relationships, sex, wellness and more, please do a search on the Get Answers page.

Are you in immediate danger?

Call 911 or your local police. If not in an immediate threat, please view resources on the Get Help page.