Do I have a yeast infection or something else?

Do I have a yeast infection or something else?


5 minute read

How do you know if you have a yeast infection? If you’re experiencing vaginal discomfort of any kind, find out whether the cause is a yeast infection or something else, like an STD or urinary tract infection (UTI). We’ll explore what a yeast infection looks like and how it differs from a UTI or an STD. 

How do you know if you have a yeast infection?

Yeast infections are fungal infections that cause vaginal irritation and discharge. The overgrowth of Candida albicans, a fungus that’s part of the vaginal microbiome, is one of the most common causes. Your vaginal microbiome consists of many microorganisms, including yeast and various bacteria, that maintain a stable environment. Some factors can shift this balance, however. Imbalance (leading to a yeast infection) can result from antibiotic use, pregnancy, diabetes, immunodeficiency, or high levels of estrogen. 

What does a yeast infection look like?

It’s important to look into any vaginal discomfort you experience. Common yeast infection symptoms include:

  • Itching and irritation (including redness) of the vagina and vulva

  • A burning sensation, particularly while having sex or peeing

  • Vaginal soreness and pain

  • A vaginal rash

  • Discharge that’s thick, white, and usually odor-free (the texture is often compared to cottage cheese)

  • A significant amount of thin discharge that may have an odor

Yeast infections are often considered minor or moderate. To be considered severe (or complicated), your symptoms are intense, you have four or more infections in a year, or the infection is caused by a less commonfungus (one other than Candida albicans which is the most common cause of yeast infections). Other factors that may lead to complicated cases include pregnancy, diabetes, and a compromised immune system. 

Is it a yeast infection or a UTI?

A yeast infection is caused by the overgrowth of Candida, a fungus that’s naturally part of the vaginal microbiome. On the other hand, UTIs are bacterial infections within the urinary tract. Although both yeast infections and UTIs cause discomfort, the symptoms are noticeably different. UTIs can cause painful urination and the sensation that you constantly have to pee. Painful urination can be one symptom of a yeast infection, but it’s usually accompanied by other symptoms like vaginal itchiness or soreness.

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What’s the difference between a yeast infection and an STD?

Some STDs have similar symptoms to yeast infections, so how can you tell which infection you’re experiencing? Herpes, genital warts, and trichomoniasis are three STDs in particular that can also cause irritation, itchiness, and changes to your discharge. By paying attention to the color, texture, and odor of the discharge, you may be able to get a good idea of which infection you’re experiencing. Gonorrhea is another STD with a symptom similar to those of yeast infections; it can cause a burning sensation when you pee. Yeast infections usually have a combination of symptoms, including irritation of the vagina. These symptoms set yeast infections apart from Gonorrhea. If you still aren’t sure which infection you’re experiencing, we recommend speaking with your primary care provider. There are different treatments for different infections, and it is important to see your PCP or OBGYN for proper treatment if you suspect you have any sort of STD. 

What can you do to prevent or treat a yeast infection?

Although some risk factors aren’t completely within your control, there are some things you can do to make experiencing a yeast infection less likely. Wearing underwear that has a cotton crotch and doesn’t fit too tightly may be one preventative measure. Recommendations also say to avoid:

  • Tight-fitting pantyhose

  • Douching

  • Scented feminine products like bubble bath, pads, or tampons

  • Hot tubs and very hot baths

  • Unnecessary antibiotic use

  • Staying in wet clothing for extended periods 

  • Practicing safe sex

Questions that might arise

It’s important to get the proper diagnosis for treatment. Give your primary care provider as much information as possible by documenting:

  • Which symptoms you’re experiencing 

  • How long you’ve been experiencing symptoms

  • Whether your vaginal discharge has an odor

  • Your history of vaginal infections

  • Over-the-counter treatments you’ve tried before contacting your primary care provider

  • Any recent use of antibiotics

  • Whether you’re sexually active or not

  • If you’re pregnant

  • If you use scented hygiene products like soap, bubble bath, or spray

What should you ask?

When you speak with your primary care provider, it’s helpful to have questions prepared. It may be useful to ask:

  • If you’ll need to take any medication

  • If there are special instructions for the medication

  • If over-the-counter treatments are available

  • If there is anything you should do if symptoms return after treatment

  • If there are any lifestyle changes you could make to avoid similar symptoms

How are yeast infections usually treated?

Recommended treatments differ depending on the severity of your yeast infection. For minor or moderate cases, your primary care provider may suggest antifungal medication (often topical) for three to seven days or an oral medication that in most cases is a single dose. In more severe cases, vaginal therapy (the antifungal medication) may be prescribed for up to two weeks (daily) and once a week for the following six months. Another option is a multi-dose oral medication. When other methods don’t work, your primary care provider may recommend boric acid treatment.   

Each type of vaginal infection, whether it’s a yeast infection or something else, is treated differently. We suggest contacting your primary care provider to receive proper care for your situation.

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