See all > Preventative health and wellness
July 27, 2022 • read
How do I know if I have a yeast infection?
Yeast infections are pretty common, but that doesn’t make their itching and discomfort any less terrible. Thankfully, yeast infections aren’t a lasting issue. They’re typically resolvable with a day or two of treatment — and sometimes without.
Certain cases, however, require additional support. Here’s the lowdown on yeast infections — from what to avoid doing when you have one to how to treat it, and when to call in the professionals.
What causes vaginal yeast infections?
Your vagina is its own ecosystem, full of billions of bacteria and a number of yeast species. Ideally, these microorganisms live in balance and harmony, so you don’t have to think about what’s going on down there. Occasionally, certain factors upset this natural equilibrium.
The yeast candida albicans naturally occurs in your vagina, as part of this ecosystem. Certain factors, however, cause this fungus to grow exuberantly, resulting in a yeast infection. Antibiotic use is a big culprit when it comes to this. While antibiotics are literal lifesavers, they also wipe out healthy bacteria in your gut, resulting in an opportunity for candida overgrowth.
Poorly-controlled diabetes or being immunosuppressed are also factors for frequent yeast infections as they affect your body’s microorganism population. So too do other conditions that change your body’s hormonal levels like pregnancy, or taking the birth control pill. Stress can also cause a yeast infection because of the strain it puts on the immune system.
Can I get yeast infections outside of my vagina?
Yes. Your vagina isn’t the only part of your body that’s susceptible to yeast infections. Candida albicans is found all over your skin, which — you guessed it — can cause yeast infections elsewhere on your skin too. Another common area to have one is under breast tissue.
Mothers who breastfeed are also at risk for getting a common yeast infection called thrush on their nipples. This is crucial to treat as it can cause extreme discomfort and be passed along to your baby.
Changing out of sweaty bras and swimsuits and making sure to fully towel off before getting dressed can help to prevent bodily yeast infections. When it comes to nursing, regularly changing nursing pads, avoiding pads with plastic liners, and changing soiled nursing bras may reduce your risk for thrush.
Are yeast infections common during pregnancy? Are they safe to treat?
About 75% of women have a yeast infection in their life, and many get them during pregnancy. Both pregnancy and certain oral contraception pills spike your estrogen levels. This can have an effect on your vagina’s microbiome, promoting an increase in candida growth.
It’s not a given for everyone, but yeast infections do become more common for some pregnant people. If you find yourself in this boat, however, don’t despair! They’re also very treatable during pregnancy.
The caveat is that while your yeast infection is easily treated, it’s still a good idea to speak to a healthcare provider if you’re pregnant and experiencing one. Both bacterial vaginosis and certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have symptoms that can be quite similar to those of a yeast infection. And, if it turns out that your symptoms are from one of these conditions instead, an antifungal won’t do anything to help ease your discomfort. Worse, these conditions can harm your baby or endanger the pregnancy.
How does a yeast infection spread?
You can’t get a yeast infection from sharing a toilet seat or bathing with someone who has one. Nevertheless, the condition can still be transmissible under certain circumstances.
Both men and women can get yeast infections, and it’s possible to spread them through sex. While wearing a condom can help to reduce the chances, candida albicans colonizes more than just the interior of the vagina or the tip of the penis. This leaves the surrounding areas vulnerable. Your best bet is to avoid sex entirely until you’ve completed treatment.
How are yeast infections treated? What medications are prescribed by doctors?
You don’t have to deal with the discomfort of your yeast infection for long. Treatment is easily accessible and typically fast-acting. Over-the-counter (OTC) creams, oral tablets, and suppositories are available at virtually every drug store. Some involve a single application, while others recommend three or seven-day treatment courses.
The only difference between a one-day yeast infection treatment vs. a three-day treatment vs. a seven-day treatment is the strength of medication over time. All of these treat yeast infections equally, but the dosage will be spread out depending on how many days you use the treatment. A single application, for example, will have the highest strength of medication. It’s really just preference and what your body can tolerate.
Most over-the-counter yeast infection pills in Canada suffice, but there are exceptions. If you have recurring yeast infections, it may indicate a different issue, like an STI, or bacterial vaginosis. Alternatively, you may be wrestling with a treatment-resistant strain of candida. In this case, you’ll likely require a prescription anti-fungal treatment like fluconazole.
It’s not uncommon either for women to confuse a yeast infection with a urinary tract infection (UTI), since both can cause pain during urination. But, these two infections are quite different. With a yeast infection, urine can irritate the inflamed external area of vagina. UTI pain happens because the urethra is inflamed, which can also cause a frequent urge to urinate.
If you’re not sure if your symptoms are the result of a yeast infection, UTI, or an STI, you should speak to a healthcare provider since OTC antifungals don’t work on other infections.
What happens if you don’t treat a yeast infection? Can it be dangerous?
Not every yeast infection requires treatment. Less severe ones can disappear on their own without treatment after a couple of days. If it’s related to monthly hormonal shifts, it’ll likely resolve once your period starts.
Many yeast infections will only get worse with time, however. In these cases, treatment is usually necessary. If you’ve been experiencing symptoms for more than a couple of days, or if yours are getting worse, you should seek treatment.
Without intervention, you won’t be able to stop the yeast infection itching and redness. In extreme cases, an unaddressed infection can cause the skin to crack or tear. This can result in painful sores and skin infections.
On the flip side, you may also get bleeding after yeast infection treatment. This can be normal for certain creams and suppositories. However, if it doesn’t go away after a few days, it’s best to speak to a doctor.
Should I treat my symptoms even if I’m not sure they’re from a yeast infection?
Beyond that, your monthly hormonal fluctuations affect the consistency of your vaginal discharge. Your cervical mucus can range from clear and sticky to creamy and thick over the course of your menstrual cycle. This may cause some to mistakenly think that normal variations in discharge consistency are symptoms of a yeast infection.
If you’re not 100% sure that you’re experiencing a yeast infection, it’s best to speak to a healthcare provider. While using an OTC treatment when you don’t have an infection probably won’t hurt, you run the risk of leaving a serious health issue untreated. Better to be safe than sorry.
What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?
Yeast infections are notoriously uncomfortable. You’re also likely to experience:
- Vaginal itching — inside of or around the vagina, or both
- Redness around your vulva
- White, lumpy yeast infection discharge, similar in consistency to cottage cheese
- Discharge that has a yeasty or bread-like odour
- Stinging during urination
- Pain or burning during sex
Can you have sex with a yeast infection?
Having sex while you have a yeast infection isn’t recommended. For one thing, it’ll likely be uncomfortable — pain, stinging, and burning during sex are also possible symptoms. And friction from sex is only likely to increase the amount of irritation you’re experiencing.
It’s also possible to transfer the condition to your partner during intercourse. Once that happens, you’ll both need to treat your respective yeast infections, or risk passing the condition back and forth.
As well, the oil in certain yeast infection medications may weaken the rubber in your diaphragm or condom. This renders both of these birth control methods less effective and puts you at higher risk of pregnancy and STIs.
Receiving oral sex should also be avoided as this can transfer yeast to your partner’s mouth. Lest you think anal sex is safe, it’s also possible to get yeast infections there as well.
As for how long you should wait for sex after yeast infection treatment? Five to seven days is most commonly recommended. This way it gives your infection time to fully clear.
What should you avoid doing when you have a yeast infection?
There are some activities you might want to curtail when you have a yeast infection. Sugar feeds yeast, which is why poorly-controlled diabetes — and the corresponding spike in blood sugar — is a risk factor for yeast infections. This means you’ll want to avoid processed sugar or refined carbohydrates as much as possible during your infection.
Your life doesn’t stop just because you have one though. You can still exercise with a yeast infection. Activities like swimming, for example, are just fine. You’ll just want to avoid hanging out in your wet bathing suit for any length of time afterwards. If you do work out, avoid doing it in restrictive clothing — those tight yoga pants are cute, but they can contribute to a warm, moist environment that’s perfect for nurturing a yeast overgrowth.
How long does it take to recover from a yeast infection?
How long you take to recover typically depends on the severity of your infection. Mild yeast infections are usually gone within a couple of days, while worse ones can take up to a couple of weeks to clear up.
Even if yours seems to vanish the minute you start treatment, it’s important to complete your course of treatment. Otherwise, you risk treating your infection incompletely and having it return.
If you find that your yeast infection symptoms don’t disappear even after you’ve finished treatment, you might be experiencing symptoms of another form of infection or STI. It might also indicate an underlying condition like diabetes or poor immune functioning. Getting a diagnosis online can help determine what’s actually going on, helping you effectively address your symptoms.
Can yeast infections be prevented?
Yeast infections aren’t always preventable, but you can reduce your chances of getting one. If you’re pregnant or have another condition like diabetes or HIV that makes you more susceptible to getting them, preventative measures become even more important. Here’s what you can do:
- Limit or avoid eating processed sugars or refined carbohydrates
- Don’t wear tight-fitting pants
- Change out of sweaty clothing as soon as possible
- Avoid wearing a wet bathing suit
- Wear cotton underwear
- Don’t douche or use perfumed or scented soaps on your genitals — anything that upsets the pH of your vagina or its microbiome may contribute to yeast infections
- Take antibiotics only when necessary
- Wipe from front to back
Yeast infections are quite common, and very treatable. For the most part, a quick trip to the pharmacy solves the issue. But sometimes, seeing a doctor online is a better alternative.
If you have a yeast infection that won’t go away or you get more than four a year, you’ll likely benefit from more supported intervention. Likewise, if it’s your first time experiencing symptoms of a yeast infection, or if you’re pregnant, it’s a good idea to talk it over with a healthcare provider.
Maple has an extensive network of Canadian-licensed doctors and specialists available to address your general and sexual health concerns. They can provide prescription medication, or refer you for more specialized care if necessary. Maple is easy to use, and available 24/7 from the comfort of your own home.
If you need help figuring out your yeast infection symptoms or any other vaginal infections, speak to a doctor online today. You shouldn’t have to spend one more day feeling uncomfortable down there.