Yeast infections can cause discomfort for people of all ages, particularly women. They're so common that the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) concludes that about 75 percent of women will have one at some point, and half of all women will experience more than one over their lifetimes. Men can also experience infections caused by similar organisms. Luckily, if you're suffering from a yeast infection, it likely won't be for long, as treatments are easily accessible today.
Symptoms of a Yeast Infection
While yeast infections are common and usually not serious, their symptoms can be uncomfortable and disruptive to your daily life. According to the American Urological Association (AUA), the three most common yeast infections are vaginal yeast infections, tinea cruris (commonly known as jock itch), and penile inflammation. Diaper rash in infants and toddlers is often caused by the same fungi.
According to the AAFP, symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include:
- Itching, burning sensation in the vagina
- A thick, white discharge resembling cottage cheese
- Experiencing pain during sexual intercourse
- Itching, burning, or swelling of the vulva
Men may experience jock itch, a red rash that spreads from the penis across the inner thigh and buttocks, or penile inflammation, in which the head of the penis becomes swollen and red. The latter is difficult to control and is more common in uncircumcised men, the AUA says.
What Causes Yeast Infections?
Because yeast fungi tend to thrive in warm, moist places, both men and women can experience a yeast infection.
For vaginal infections, the acidity of the vagina can decline, encouraging yeast growth and eventually an infection. Factors that could impact the vagina's acidic balance include menstruation and pregnancy, having diabetes, taking certain antibiotics or steroids, and sexual activity or other vaginal irritations.
Treatment and Prevention
In most cases, if you have a vaginal yeast infection, your doctor will recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) treatment. Usually these medications are a cream or vaginal suppository, but you may be able to take oral medications as well. You can find these medications at most drugstores.
Some people may be more susceptible to yeast infections than others. Once they see their doctor to diagnose their infection the first time, they can sometimes self-diagnose future infections and acquire OTC treatments right away. However, if you have any doubt, consider seeing your doctor. Taking yeast infection treatments can exacerbate other issues if you actually have a different type of infection or sexually transmitted disease (STD).
If you're prone to yeast infections, the AAFP offers these tips to help prevent future flare-ups:
- Wear cotton underwear, and avoid clothes that are tight-fitting or made of synthetic fibers.
- After using the bathroom, always wipe from front to back.
- Avoid douching products and feminine hygiene sprays.
- Do not use deodorant sanitary pads or tampons, colored or perfumed toilet paper, or bubble bath.
Having a yeast infection can be uncomfortable, but thanks to easily accessible medications, it doesn't have to disrupt your daily life. If you're susceptible to or have been suffering from a yeast infection, speak with your doctor about treatment options to find relief fast.