Yeast infections are absolutely no fun, but at least they’re pretty easy to treat.
What’s a yeast infection?
A yeast infection is a nasty little infection that manifests itself inside your vagina. Some fancy Latin folks like to call it vulvovaginal candidiasis. Every vagina has yeast (called Candida albicans) in it, and that yeast is supposed to be up in there. But sometimes, the other bacteria that manage the yeast (like Lactobacillus acidophilus) can become imbalanced, allowing the yeast to multiply too much and cause an infection. There are a bunch of different reasons why these imbalances might occur, such as normal changes in hormone levels, antibiotics, cortisone, and other drugs, pregnancy, diabetes, a weak immune system, and as a reaction to a sexual partner’s genital chemistry. Yeast infections are not STIs, and they’re not contagious.
Penises and scrota can get yeast infections too, but it’s not as common. A yeast infection can cause irritation or redness of your penis or scrotum.
What does a yeast infection look, feel, and smell like?
I’m glad you asked! The most noticeable part of a yeast infection is the way it feels—you’ll probably experience a burning sensation in your genitals when you pee, and your bits will probably itch like mother. If the infection goes untreated for a while, sex might become uncomfortable or painful. You can also experience redness around the vagina and vulva, and in extreme cases, sores or fissures might develop on the vagina or vulva.
Quite often, vaginal discharge will become thick, white, and clumpy (think cottage cheese). There might also be a white coating on the vulva and around the vagina. Sometimes, this discharge will be odourless, and sometimes it will smell noticeably different from your normal discharge.
Wanna hear about someone’s firsthand experience with a yeast infection? Check out Amy’s story.
How do I treat a yeast infection?
You get your butt to a doctor’s office. If you’ve had yeast infections in the past, you might be able to diagnose and treat them yourself. But if this is the first time you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s a good idea to get a professional diagnosis so that you don’t misidentify the cause of your symptoms. Usually, a few days worth of prescribed medications will do the trick clearing up your infection. You can also find over-the-counter anti-fungal creams, suppositories, or tablets at your local drugstore if you’re familiar with treating your own yeast infections. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before your use any medications.
Some people advocate for the use of all-natural remedies, but these are unregulated, not FDA-approved, and cannot be accurately tested for their efficacy. I won’t discuss them here. If you feel like one of these remedies is right for you, do some research using reputable, reliable sources and make the best choice that you can for yourself. You have my support.
What else can I do to speed up my recovery?
There are lots of things that you can avoid doing to help your yeast infection clear out as fast as possible. While you are recovering from your yeast infection:
- Don’t itch your bits—it’s tempting, I know. But don’t do it.
- Don’t have vaginal or oral sex.
- Don’t put any foreign objects inside your vagina.
- Do drink cranberry juice or take cranberry tablets—cranberries contain high levels of ascorbic acid, a natural disinfectant.
- Do consume probiotic yogurt—the live cultures in yogurt can help protect and restore the natural bacterial levels in your body.
What can I do to prevent yeast infections?
There are some things you can do prevent future infections, but remember: practicing these habits won’t guarantee that you will never get another yeast infection again. Some people are more prone to yeast infections than others, and this does not mean that those people are inherently dirty or have poor personal hygiene.
- Keep your bits clean! Use mild soap to clean your vaginal area regularly.
- After you pee, try wiping from front to back so that you don’t track fecal matter into your vaginal area.
- Wear comfortable underwear and clothing that keep your vaginal area dry—yeast loves to breed in moist, warm places.
- Change our of your swimsuit promptly. Keep those moisture levels down, friends!
- Change your pads and tampons frequently.
- DON’T douche or spray your vaginal area with anything perfumed. This can upset the natural bacterial levels in your vagina. It’s alright if your vagina looks and smells and tastes like a vagina. It’s a vagina.
If you’re one of those unlucky few prone to regular yeast infections (especially if you have four or more yeast infections in one year), keep an eye on your situation and check in with your doc. Your doctor might be able to help you manage your yeast infections better, and they can conduct tests to see if your recurring infections are a symptom of another problem.
References: Corinna, Heather, “FBI Files: Candidiasis, AKA, Yeast Infections,” Scarleteen.com, Scarleteen, 18 Mar. 2014, http://www.scarleteen.com/article/sexual_health/fbi_files_candidiasis_aka_yeast_infections; Healthwise Staff, “Vaginal Yeast Infections,” HealthLinkBC.ca, HealthLinkBC, 13 Oct. 2016, https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/hw61044; “What is a Yeast Infection?” PlannedParenthood.org, Planned Parenthood, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/health-and-wellness/vaginitis/what-yeast-infection.