General Info on Yeast Infections

A yeast infection, also known as candidiasis (pronounced: can-dih-die-uh-sis), is the name for a common infection caused by a type of yeast-like fungus called candida.

Yeast infections usually occur in warm, moist parts of the body, such as the mouth and moist areas of skin. When they cause an infection in the vagina, it is known as vulvovaginal candidiasis.

Candida can overgrow for many reasons. Stress, pregnancy, and illnesses that affect the immune system may allow yeast to multiply, as can certain medicines. These include some birth control pills and steroids. Or if you're taking antibiotics, such as for strep throat, the antibiotics can kill "good" bacteria that also live in the body and normally keep the growth of candida in the vagina in check. Yeast also can flourish if a girl's blood sugar is high. Girls who have diabetes that isn't controlled are at a higher risk for yeast infections.

Many girls find that yeast infections tend to show up right before they get their periods because of the hormonal changes that come with the menstrual cycle. Clothing (especially underwear) that is too tight or made of materials like nylon that trap heat and moisture might lead to yeast infections because yeast can thrive in this type of environment. And douching and using scented sanitary products can upset the healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina and make yeast infections more likely.

Yeast infections can happen to any girl, and they're not related to having sex — although they occasionally can be spread from one sexual partner to the other. This is quite rare, though, and the partner of someone who has a yeast infection does not automatically have to be treated. Yeast infections that are spread through sex are not considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). A doctor won't be able to tell how you got a yeast infection, but will be able to tell you if you really have one, and if so, how to treat it.

How To Prevent Yeast Infections

What you wear — or don't wear — can help you avoid a yeast infection. Yeast grows best in a warm, moist environment: think wet bathing suits, tight jeans, and stretchy exercise gear. Nylon underwear, pantyhose, and other synthetic materials that trap moisture also make yeast infections more likely.

Some girls may react to certain dyes or perfumes in soaps, bath gels or lotions, sanitary products, and laundry detergents. When the reaction causes irritation, that can set the stage for a yeast infection. Your best bet is to steer clear of perfumed products and to use mild and fragrance-free products when possible.

To help keep your vaginal area dry, try switching to all-cotton underwear and make sure you carefully dry off after you shower. If you can, wear cotton underwear to bed or don't wear any, and always wash and thoroughly dry your underwear before wearing them. Don't lounge around in a wet bathing suit and avoid jeans or pantyhose that are too tight.

Don't take leftover antibiotics or someone else's antibiotics if you think you have an infection. Only take antibiotics when and how they're prescribed for you. And if you have diabetes, make sure you keep your blood sugar levels under control.

Vaginal yeast infection

Vaginal yeast infections are a very common problem in women. It is difficult to know the true percentage of women affected by yeast infections; they are frequently diagnosed without an examination and many women treat themselves with over-the-counter yeast treatments before seeking medical advice. Itching of the vulva is the most common symptom of a vaginal yeast infection. Women may also note pain with urination, vulvar soreness or irritation, pain with intercourse, or reddened and swollen vulvar and vaginal tissues. There is often little or no vaginal discharge; if present, discharge is typically white and clumpy (curd-like), but may be thin and watery in some cases. Symptoms of a yeast infection are similar to a number of other conditions, including bacterial vaginosis (a bacterial infection of the vagina), trichomoniasis (a sexually transmitted infection), and contact or allergic dermatitis (a skin reaction to an irritating or allergic substance) . It is often not possible to know, based on symptoms alone, if vulvar itching is caused by yeast or other potential causes. Candida albicans is a fungus that normally lives on the skin and mucous membranes (mouth, nose, vagina); it causes most cases of vaginal yeast infections. Normally, candida causes no symptoms. However, when the skin or mucous membranes undergo changes due to medications, injury, or stress to the immune system, candida multiplies and causes the characteristic symptoms of a yeast infection, described above. In most women, there is no underlying disease or event that leads to a yeast infection. There are several risk factors that may increase the chances of developing an infection, including use of antibiotics, hormonal contraceptives and certain contraceptive devices, diabetes, pregnancy, and a weakened immune system (due to chemotherapy, HIV, or certain medications). Diagnosis of a vaginal yeast infection requires that a healthcare provider take a medical history, perform a physical examination, and perform diagnostic testing. It is important to visit the provider when symptoms are present and before any treatment is used. Women with symptoms of vulvar itching or vaginal discharge frequently assume that their symptoms are related to a yeast infection and treat themselves with an over-the-counter treatment. Incorrect self-diagnosis and treatment can delay receiving the correct diagnosis and treatment and wastes money on improper treatment, which frequently causes further irritation of the vulva and vagina. Treatment of vaginal yeast infection may include a topical cream or tablet; most are applied inside the vagina at bedtime with an applicator. Treatment durations vary; one, three, and seven- day treatments are equally effective. Oral treatment is available as fluconazole (Diflucan®) 150 mg. Most patients require only one dose.Vaginal yeast infections are not considered to be a sexually transmitted infection, though the infection can rarely be passed from one partner to another. Most experts do not currently recommend treatment of a sexual partner.

Do Guys Get Yeast Infections?

Obviously, guys don't get vaginal yeast infections. But balanitis (pronounced: bal-uh-nie-tis), an infection of the head of the penis, can be caused by the same candida that causes infections in girls. Guys who have diabetes are more prone to this infection. A guy who gets balanitis may not have any symptoms or the tip of the penis may become red and sore or itchy. Some guys might have a slight discharge as well.

Guys who are not circumcised need to take extra care to clean properly beneath their foreskins. The warm, moist folds of the foreskin are the perfect environment for yeast infections to thrive. Keeping the area clean and dry may help prevent an infection, but if symptoms do show up, a trip to the doctor will solve the problem.

Male Yeast Infection

Can I get a yeast infection from my girlfriend?

Yes, you can get a yeast infection from sexual contact with a woman who has a vaginal yeast infection. The same yeast that causes vaginal infections in women can cause infections of the penis in men. However, just because your girlfriend has a genital yeast infection doesn't mean you'll get one.

Signs and symptoms of a male yeast infection include a red rash, itching or burning at the tip of your penis. Fortunately, most male yeast infections are easily treated with over-the-counter antifungal treatments, such as Monistat.

To treat a male yeast infection, apply the medication directly to the affected skin twice daily for a week. If the rash doesn't go away or if it recurs frequently, consult your doctor. Persistent or recurrent yeast infections can be associated with other medical conditions such as diabetes.

Nail infections (Onychomycosis)

Onychomycosis refers to nail infections caused by any fungus, including yeasts and nondermatophyte molds. A study of 15,000 patients in Canada presenting to the offices of three dermatologists and one family physician found that 8 percent had onychomycosis.Toenail onychomycosis is most commonly due to dermatophytes . Fingernail onychomycosis is more likely than toenail onychomycosis to be due to yeast , and some studies have found that yeast are the most common cause of fingernail onychomycosis. Although onychomycosis is usually a cosmetic concern to patients, it also causes physical discomfort for some, particularly with more severe or advanced disease. Additionally, in patients with diabetes, onychomycosis may increase the risk of bacterial infections such as cellulitis.The great toe is usually the first to be affected, but all nails are susceptible. The disease begins with a whitish, yellowish, or brownish discoloration of a distal corner of the nail, which gradually spreads to involve the entire width of the nail plate and extends slowly toward the cuticle. Most studies have found that onychomycosis is responsible for only 50 to 60 percent of abnormal appearing nails. Treating onychomycosis is suggested to:
  • Patients with a history of cellulitis of the lower extremity who have ipsilateral toenail onychomycosis.
  • Patients with diabetes and toenail onychomycosis who have additional risk factors for cellulitis (ie, prior cellulitis, venous insufficiency, edema)
  • Patients who are experiencing discomfort/pain associated with infected nails.
  • Patients who desire treatment for cosmetic reasons.
Topical therapy

A topical antifungal nail lacquer containing ciclopirox is available for the treatment of mild to moderate onychomycosis.

Oral therapy

Newer medications such as terbinafine and itraconazole appear to have higher rates of cure in head-to-head randomized trials than older medications such as griseofulvin.


Surgical therapy involves removal of the nail. Surgery is generally only used to treat an isolated nail infection or in cases involving a dermatophytoma (a collection of dermatophytes in solid form under the nail).

Patients who desire treatment should be warned that treatment failures and recurrences are common, particularly for toenail onychomycosis.