Medical News Today: What to know about sex and yeast infections

Yeast infections occur because of an overgrowth of a type of fungus known as Candida, which lives in the body harmlessly most of the time. It is possible to have sex with a yeast infection, but it can be painful and has other risks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaginal yeast infections are the second most common kind of vaginal infections after bacterial infections of the vagina.

Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection can include:

  • vaginal pain or soreness
  • pain during urination
  • itching or burning
  • pain during sex
  • thick, white vaginal discharge

Can you have sex if you have a yeast infection?

Couple in embrace in bed.
Doctors recommend avoiding sex until a yeast infection has gone away.

While it is possible for a person with a yeast infection to have sex, most doctors do not recommend having sex until the infection has cleared up.

Also, because many of the symptoms are uncomfortable, individuals may choose to refrain from sexual activity while they have a yeast infection to minimize pain and itching.

As well as being painful or uncomfortable, a person who has sex while they have a yeast infection may cause the infection to last longer, cause symptoms to return if they have recently cleared up following treatment, and increase their partner’s risk of developing a yeast infection as well.


Transmission during sex

Sexual partners can transmit yeast infections. However, the likelihood of transmission is small.

When a woman has sex with another woman, there is some evidence to suggest they can transmit a yeast infection. However, one study found no evidence supporting the transmission of the infection from woman to woman through sex.

While yeast infections in men are rare, it is possible for a man to get an infection by having sex with a person who has a vaginal yeast infection. Uncircumcised men are more susceptible to developing a yeast infection.

A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, some prevention methods, such as condoms, can help reduce the risk of spreading a yeast infection to a partner.

How long should you wait after treatment?

Having sex while undergoing treatment for a yeast infection may slow down the healing process.

Also, if a person’s partner develops a yeast infection, it is possible that the infection will get passed back and forth. A person should generally avoid sexual activity until all the symptoms clear up.

Yeast infections usually clear relatively rapidly once a person begins treatment. Many over-the-counter (OTC) treatment options require up to 7 days to clear up the infection.


Causes

Woman on public transport looking stressed and anxious.
Stress may increase the risk of developing a yeast infection.

The fungus Candida causes yeast infections. This fungus lives in and on various parts of the human body, including the skin, the mouth, and the vagina.

In the vagina, the Lactobacillus bacteria typically keeps Candida numbers in check.

If there is a shortage or imbalance of Lactobacillus compared to Candida, a yeast infection may occur.

Some common causes of a bacterial imbalance in the vagina include:

  • uncontrolled diabetes
  • immunosuppression, such as having HIV
  • a hormone imbalance
  • stress
  • pregnancy
  • excessive sugar consumption
  • taking antibiotics

Most yeast infections are easy to treat. However, if a person experiences multiple, recurring yeast infections, they should speak to a doctor as Candida may not be the underlying cause or OTC remedies may be ineffective.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a yeast infection include:

  • pain during sex
  • burning sensation during sex or urination
  • itchiness
  • redness
  • a rash
  • swelling of the labia
  • white, clumpy discharge

When left untreated, the symptoms will typically get worse. However, some mild yeast infections may get better without treatment.


When to see a doctor

People can often treat a yeast infection at home using OTC remedies. These treatments usually contain one of the following ingredients:

  • butoconazole (Gynazole)
  • miconazole (Monistat)
  • terconazole (Terazol)

When a person develops a yeast infection for the first time, they should see a doctor to ensure they receive the correct diagnosis and treatment.

People should also seek medical advice if OTC treatments are not effective. A doctor may recommend alternative treatments, including oral medication.

Finally, a person should seek medical attention if they:

  • have four or more yeast infections in a year
  • are pregnant
  • have severe symptoms
  • have a compromised immune system

Once the treatment is complete, and the symptoms are gone, a person can return to their regular sex life.

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