AskAwayHealth

Sign in to your account

Don't have an account?

Create an account
This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more
Black medical doctor in a white coat and red stethoscope examining a patient on a ward. Our doctors on askawayhealth have years of clinical experience to provide top notch care.

Need to check your symptoms?

Use our symptom checker to help determine what your symptoms are and to ensure you get the help you need.

Check your symptoms

AskAwayHealth

Request a reset

Don't have an account?

Create an account

AskAwayHealth

Reset your password

Don't have an account?

Create an account

AskAwayHealth

Will Yeast Infection Go Away on its own – and other Frequently Asked Questions

October 14, 2020

Yeast infections happen due to certain types of fungi known as ‘yeasts’. There are several types of yeasts from the species ‘fungus’ – some we use in cooking and brewery. But one of the most common types responsible for sickness in humans is known as Candida albicans.

Read on to see how yeast (Candida) affects men, women and children and common questions you care about addressed.

Contributed by Dr Fisayomi Aturamu

What is a Yeast Infection?

When you hear about yeast infection, you probably think straightaway of vaginal thrush.

And you wouldn’t be wrong – vulvovaginal thrush is another name for yeast infecting the woman’s genital area.

Thrush develops following infection with a member of the species of fungus.

Candida is one of the most common causes of fungal infections in humans. [1]

Candida albicans, the particular organism that causes a yeast infection, usually reside naturally in the vagina.

(All over our bodies – on our skin or gut, we have different germs that exist harmlessly – some of them are bacteria or fungi of different types)

However, thanks to the ‘good bacteria’ in the vagina – they keep the growth of Candida under control and harmless.

So when anything upsets the normal balance of the ‘good bacteria reducing their numbers, yeast colonies may multiply, leading to infection. [2]

And so, vaginal thrush infection presents a common problem many women experience throughout life.

However, men of any age can also be affected by yeast infection.

Yeast can also affect other parts of the body.

Overgrowth of Candida can develop in your mouth.

Known as oral thrush, it often looks like white patches in the mouth, especially inside the cheeks, lips, gums and tongue.

It can also affect other areas like the underarms’ skin, thighs, or crease areas between the buttocks.

Yeast Infection in Women

It is the second most common cause of vaginal infections after bacterial vaginosis.

Studies suggest that 4 out of every 10 women visiting a clinic with vaginal infections may have candida. [1]

Approximately three out of every four women will develop a yeast infection in their lifetime. [2]

Symptoms of Women’s Yeast Infections

  • Itching of the vulva and vagina, with swelling, redness and scaly dry skin in these parts – can be intensely uncomfortable
  • Whitish (creamy/yellow) vaginal discharge that is thick, typically without a smell, and resembles cottage cheese or curd
  • There is pain when passing urine from the contact between your (acidic) urine and inflamed/sore skin in the vulva.
  • Discomfort (soreness) may occur during sexual intercourse because of the soreness of the vagina[2]

What Increases the Risk of Infection

Hormone Changes

Vaginal infections with yeast are more common in women of childbearing age. [1] They very frequently happen during pregnancy and just before menstruation. [2]

What these two conditions have in common (pregnancy and menstruation) is a change in your usual hormone balance.

Scientists believe this could lead to the overgrowth of yeasts.

Antibiotic/Other Drug Treatment

Another reason for thrush is following a recent course of antibiotics for other problems such as chest or urinary tract infections.

Or when you abuse antibiotics – (when you use them more often than you need to).

While antibiotics destroy bad germs, they may get rid of good bacteria, too.

This leads to the overgrowth of candida and, therefore, thrush.

As a woman, this is most likely to result in vaginal thrush, though thrush in other areas could develop.

If you use some birth control (combined pill), you may be at a greater risk of Thrush.

Poor Personal Hygiene

Poor personal hygiene is another significant factor in developing thrush.

Yeast germs thrive in warm, moist areas.

With inadequate care, some parts of your body could make it really easy for the yeasts to grow and multiply.

Examples of where this could happen are:

  • Under and in between your breasts
  • In the armpits
  • The groin – between the thighs and buttocks.

Failing to wash regularly every day, after exercise or to clean properly after opening your bowels makes it easier for yeasts to grow.

Similarly, wearing stale, damp clothing like underwear or socks/stockings makes the likelihood of developing an infection with yeast highly likely.

Chronic Health Problems

Other problems that can lead to thrush are common among both sexes.

Health conditions like Diabetes or those that suppress your immunity also contribute to developing Thrush.

Examples of these are HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection and Cancer.

Taking medicines to treat cancer also weakens your immunity and makes you susceptible to thrush.

Men’s Yeast Infection

Yes, men do also get thrush/yeast infections.

It can affect the genitals, mouth and other skin areas just as in women, but to a less frequent degree.

Candida infection in men is also the most common cause of inflammation affecting the head of the penis. [1]

Reasons Men May Develop Infection with Yeast

  • Being uncircumcised.
    • The presence of the foreskin may create pockets of space around the penis where yeast can multiply, causing thrush.
    • Pay attention to cleansing the area by pulling back the foreskin to clean around it helps reduce your risk.
  • Poor personal hygiene.
    • Just as in women, poor personal hygiene contributes to the development of thrush in men.
    • It’s important to pay attention to regular bathing, reducing sweat collection and avoiding damp clothing that promotes the yeasts’ growth.
    • Your private areas between the legs and anal areas are moist, warm sites where fungus easily multiplies to cause infection.
  • Chronic medical conditions.
    • Diabetes Mellitus or Chronic Kidney Disease are examples of such health problems.
    • Poorly controlled blood sugar or a weak immune response, respectively, could lead to yeast infections as an infection with HIV.
  • Remember that prolonged use of antibiotics – even when medically appropriate leads to the death of both good and bad bacteria.
    • Losing your good bacteria increases the risk of developing thrush

Symptoms of Yeast Infection in Men:

  • Thick whitish (creamy) discharge on the head of the penis may accumulate under the foreskin in uncircumcised men
  • Very itchy or burning sensation around the head of the penis
  • Inflammatory appearance – redness, bruised appearance to the head of the penis
  • Discomfort while urinating [2]

Yeast Infections in Babies and Young Children

A yeast infection can affect babies and young children.

Babies’ immune systems are still developing, so they are more at risk of developing an infection.

The common areas that a baby can be affected are in the mouth and ‘nappy area’.

Your baby’s mouth makes regular with your nipple/breast during breastfeeding.

Oral thrush in a baby causes soreness and can affect the baby’s breastfeeding.

Some symptoms of oral thrush are:

  • Whitish or creamy patches in the mouth, tongue or over the gums
  • Being unable to feed from soreness in the mouth
  • They are unsettled and crying a lot are other signs your baby may have thrush.

Carefully cleaning your breast and nipples between feeds helps prevent thrush from developing in your baby.

Getting prompt treatment for you and your baby if either shows signs of thrush is important.

The other common problem area is the ‘nappy region’.

  • The skin of the upper thigh folds,
  • All the area between the thighs
  • The skin of the vulva or penis
  • And the space between the buttocks from front to back.

Babies can develop diaper rash or nappy dermatitis, which are most often due to yeast infection.

Some or all of these areas develop a red, shiny, inflamed, raised, pimply or bumpy rash [3].

It is uncomfortable and leads to pain when urinating as the acidic urine rubs against the sore skin.

Some of the conditions that may increase the risk of nappy dermatitis are:

  • Leaving on wet/soiled nappies for long periods or
  • Failing to clean and dry baby’s skin properly when changing the nappy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Yeast Infections

Yeast infections lead to irritation and discomfort – mostly, symptoms are not severe but can complicate your usual activities.

Here are a few common enquiries we get about yeast infections.

Is a Yeast Infection Contagious?

Yeast infection is typically not sexually transmitted. However, it can be passed from one person to another through body contact – such as during sex.

Another instance is when a breastfeeding baby develops thrush as the yeast can grow in both baby’s mouth and on the mother’s nipple.

Yeast infections are not toilet infections.

Poor personal hygiene from not washing properly, dirty clothing, personal habits like douching etc.

These are more likely conditions than a dirty toilet for developing thrush.

Can Yeast Infections Affect Your Periods?

Having a yeast infection during your period may make menses uncomfortable.

The itching sensation accompanying a yeast infection may get worse, especially when sanitary pads are worn over a long period.

This is why maintaining good hygiene during your periods is so important.

  • Change sanitary towels and tampons often, especially if you bleed heavily.
  • If you use menstrual cups, change them as recommended by the manufacturer
    • Ensure you wash the cups thoroughly and dry them properly between use.
  • Take frequent, regular baths, especially when on your period.
  • Wear clean, fresh, thoroughly dry underwear – preferably made from cotton materials.

How To Prevent Yeast Infections

As we’ve seen, yeast cells live in our bodies but are usually controlled by good bacteria.

Therefore, anything that depletes the vegetation of ‘good bacteria’ in the vagina would predispose you to yeast infection; or when your immune system is weak and cannot protect you from the germs.

Do the following to prevent a yeast infection:

Personal hygiene care for women:

  • Avoid Douching. This is a very old practice of washing the inside of the vagina using ‘feminine products’.
    • However, douching with these products result in some changes:
      • Disturbs your normal vaginal acidity and the good germs (bacterial flora) which live there.
      • Both of these can allow the overgrowth of yeast, leading to infection.
    • Your vagina can clean itself. Fluid made by cells in the vagina and cervix removes dead cells/dirt.
    • When cleaning, focus on the areas between the legs, outside your vagina, ie the vulva, the groin and your anal area. Avoid washing inside the vagina.
    • Don’t forget to clean from front to back after using the toilet and when bathing to avoid germs getting to the vagina from the anal area.
  • Avoid inserting foreign bodies into the vagina
  • Avoid wearing tight underwear; wear dry or freshly cleaned cotton underwear.
  • If you suffer frequently from thrush, check your soaps – fragranced soap, bubble baths or feminine sprays.
    • Just like douching, they could affect the acidity of your vagina and increase the growth of yeast cells.
  • Personal Hygiene Care for Men is also important for preventing thrush.
    • When you fail to clean the penis properly, it can lead to a build-up of smegma.
    • Smegma is the name we give to the natural lubricant which keeps the penis moist.
    • It’s usually it’s found around the head of the penis and the foreskin.
    • When the penis is not washed regularly (or properly) at least once a day or after exercise, sex etc., smegma builds up.
    • This makes a good breeding area for germs like bacteria or yeast to cause infections.
  • Use loose cotton boxer shorts instead of tight ‘jock’ shorts to reduce yeast overgrowth.

General Prevention Tips

Avoid unnecessary or prolonged antibiotic use wherever possible.

Eating certain types of foods called Probiotics can help your body control the overgrowth of yeast or other bad germs.

  • This is because probiotics like yoghurt or buttermilk contain some good live bacteria.
  • They are helpful in improving the health of your bowel, reducing problems with gas/bloating, diarrhoea or reduce lactose intolerance.
  • But in addition, taking these regularly in moderate quantities could help the overall balance and reduce your risk of yeast infections.  
  • If you are diabetic, work with your specialist to ensure a program where your blood sugars are well controlled.
    • This helps to reduce the risk of frequent candida overgrowth and infection.
  • Practice good personal hygiene, and keep your clothes fresh.
    • Look after your gym/exercise clothing and kit. Have them washed and dried in between sessions.
    • If you sweat a lot, don’t wear the same clothing on consecutive days – especially underclothes.
  • Air dry your clothing – sun-dried is best, or dry them thoroughly in a dryer before wearing them.
  • Yeast only requires little encouragement to overgrow – keeping personal items clean reduces the chances for this to happen.

Where Else Can You Get a Yeast Infection?

Apart from the genitals, anal area and mouth, it is also possible to get a yeast infection on the nipples and around the breasts.

Breast and nipple yeast infections happen in breastfeeding mothers whose babies have oral thrush.[4]

Most yeast infections are mild, but in some cases, they can become overwhelming or extensive.

These are often complications of weak immune systems from conditions like Cancer or HIV, as well as side effects from the medicines used to treat these conditions.

So, in addition to a yeast infection of the mouth, the deeper tissues of the throat or pharynx can be involved.

Another complication is blood poisoning – this also happens when the immune system is suppressed.

It often happens when the yeast becomes overgrown on objects placed within the body, like catheters in the bladder.

Can Yeast Infection Cause UTI?

Yeast infection in men may cause urethritis, an inflammation of the urethra, the urinary tube that runs into the penis and the bladder. [5]

Candida is a common cause of opportunistic infections, especially for people in hospitals.

An opportunistic infection is a special type of infection when a germ that would usually not cause harm takes advantage of the opportunity given by a weakened immune system to cause serious illness.

A very common example is when Candida causes urinary tract infections in people with urinary catheters. [6]

Opportunistic infections are also common in people with HIV who have weakened immune systems.

Why Do I Keep Getting Thrush?

Recurring thrush is the term doctors give to a thrush infection that keeps returning after treatment. It may get better for a while; then you get thrush again. This may happen if you did not complete your course of treatment or take the medicines as advised.

It may also be the case that there is an underlying condition, which means that the yeast germs can survive or multiply very easily despite treatment.

This could happen with the following:

  • Poorly controlled Diabetes Mellitus
  • Taking medicines that weaken your immune system (immunosuppressants or other cancer-fighting drugs)
  • Suffering from conditions which also reduce your immune system’s ability to work well.
  • Continuing to take medicines which could increase your risk of thrush-like the Combined birth control pill.
  • Pregnant women may experience repeated bouts of thrush during their pregnancy – as a result of hormone and immune changes.
  • Failing to treat your sexual partner at the same time as you may also explain why you keep getting thrush.
    • It is possible that your partner may have yeast cells in their private parts without obvious signs of the infection.
    • During sexual contact, they pass the yeast to you, leading to your re-infection.

But in some cases, you may suffer from a thrush infection which does not go away following standard treatment.

  • Severe thrush infection may need more than one single course of treatment and for a prolonged period of time.
    • Your doctor may arrange for you to have blood tests to diagnose the cause of the problem if it does not settle after a few weeks.
    • In some cases, you may need to have up to 6 months of treatment if you continue to have recurring thrush infections.

How to Treat Yeast Infections

Yeast infections are generally treated with antifungal drugs.

These are a special class of medicines which kill and stop the growth of the yeasts.

They can be taken by mouth (oral); used directly on the skin as creams or as capsules inserted into the vagina (pessaries).

Creams

These are generally used for yeast infections affecting the skin:

  • The vulva,
  • the head of the penis and skin around the shaft
  • the folds around the armpits or thighs,
  • under/in between the breasts
  • or for nappy dermatitis.

Tablets/ Capsules/Gels/Sprays/Mouth Drops

You may be given antifungal medicines to take by mouth instead of (or as well as) creams to treat your yeast infection.

More severe and extensive candida/yeast infections are more effectively treated with oral antifungals than with creams.

We use these for treating thrush in the vagina, penis, and other skin infections like over the nipple, armpit, groin and so on.

Oral gels, sprays and mouth drops are specially designed for infections in the mouth.

They are especially preferable for babies and adults who have swallowing difficulties.

Their advantage is allowing the drug to concentrate within the mouth’s tissues and quickly target the yeast cells.

Vaginal Pessaries

These are medicines in the form of capsules or creams within applicators that deliver the drug right within the vagina.

Oral drops or gels allow the drug to concentrate within the vaginal tissues and kill yeast cells.

You may get a course of treatment for 1 or 2 weeks, but there are ‘single-dose’ preparations which are easier to use and adhere with.

Pessaries can also be used by a woman during her menstrual period.

The best way to use the vaginal pessary is to apply it high up in the vagina at bedtime.

This allows the medicine to remain inside the vagina after application while you are lying still.

If your symptoms do not improve following a course of treatment, it is important to seek medical advice.

What About Over-the-Counter Treatments?

Well, a lot of the time, mild cases of thrush in adults can be treated without seeing a doctor. This could be the case with slight vulval/vaginal infection or irritation around the penis.

These are often antifungal creams or pessaries, and you may find these convenient and simple to use.

A common preparation is Clotrimazole, marketed as Canesten in many places.

However, if you feel you have a heavy yeast infection, or you have other symptoms such as:

  • vaginal bleeding,
  • or type of discharge from the penis/vagina that is different from what has been described earlier,
  • or feeling unwell with pain in your abdomen or fever,

please visit a clinic/hospital to ensure you get the proper treatment.

Can You Treat Yeast Infections Naturally?

There is some evidence that mild cases of vulval thrush; or vulval and vaginal infection can be treated naturally.

You may prefer a natural remedy if you want a discreet, at-home remedy. Still, it is important to emphasise that these remedies may be limited in moderate/severe infections where you may also feel ill.

These remedies are also NOT recommended if you:

  • Are pregnant.
  • Intend to use them for babies or children – please seek medical advice in this case.
  • Have been diagnosed with an immunosuppressive illness like HIV or poorly controlled Diabetes.
  • Suspect a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
  • Have had recurring thrush infections in the past.

Some of these home remedies are:

  • Apple Cider Vinegar (diluted and used in the bath)
  • Coconut Oil applied to the affected areas.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide (diluted)
  • Garlic (in food)
  • Some Probiotics like yoghurt or supplement forms.

If you want to learn more about home remedies and how to use them safely, read here.

When Will The Symptoms Improve After Starting Treatment

Yeast infections can last three days to two weeks, so there are one-day, three-day, or week-long treatments available.

Generally, the sooner you begin treatment, the quicker the yeast growth can be controlled and stopped.

Your response may begin within the first 24 to 36 hours for creams, pessaries, mouth gels or drops.

The tablets/capsules require digestion and may take slightly longer to begin working.

Pregnant women are a special group who need a longer duration of treatment, usually about 7 days, to clear the infection.

Oral antifungal treatment should be avoided during pregnancy.

Regardless, any treatment failure should be reported to your doctor for help.

Have you any experience of Candida infection that you’d care to share – was it hard to get a diagnosis or the right treatment? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Read More:

References

  1. Jacqueline M. A and Bettina C. F, 2010. Candida Infections of the Genitourinary Tract. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2010 Apr; 23(2): 253–273. doi: 10.1128/CMR.00076-09
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013. Yeast Infection. [online] Available at: <http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/vaginal-yeast-infections.cfm> [Accessed 20 September 2020]
  3. Pickering LK, Baker CJ, Kimberlin DW, 2015. Long SS eds. Red Book: 2015
  4. Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2015:[275-280]
  5. Louisa H and Stacie AC, 2011. Candida Mastitis: A Case Report. Perm J. 2011 Winter; 15(1): 62–64. doi: 10.7812/tpp/10-088
  6. Liesl Brown, 2018. Treating Vaginal Yeast Infections. [online] Available at:  <researchgate.net/publication/328542185_Treating_vaginal_yeast_infections> [Accessed 27 September 2020]
  7. Payam B, Elham B, and Reza R, 2015. Urinary tract infections and Candida albicans. Cent European J Urol. 2015; 68(1): 96–101. doi: 10.5173/ceju.2015.01.474

Editing By AskAwayHealth

Disclaimer

All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on various healthcare conditions to help promote quality healthcare. 

The advice in our material is not meant to replace a qualified healthcare practitioner’s management of your specific condition.
To discuss your condition, please get in touch with a health practitioner or reach us directly.

Image Credits – Canva

Share this blog article

On this page

Let us know what you think

Want to know how your comment data is processed? Learn more

Access over 600 resources & our monthly newsletter.

Askawayhealth 2023 grant recipient from European Union Development Fund

Askawayhealth, 2023 Award Recipient

Our educational content meets the standards set by the NHS in their Standard for Creating Health Content guidance.

Askawayhealth aims to deliver reliable and evidence based women's health, family health and sexual health information in a way that is easily relatable and easy for everyone to access.

Askawayhealth symptom Checker tool image

Utilize our complimentary symptom checker tool to gain more information about any uncertain symptoms you might have.