Yeast Infections: Are they STIs?
Vaginal yeast infections (also known as vaginal thrush) are really common. Most women will get it at least once in their lives. However, you might be a little confused about how you actually get it.
Yeast infections can be sexually transmitted, especially from oral to genital (through the mouth, penis or vagina), but it’s not really considered a sexually transmitted infection because you can get it without having sex.
The vagina naturally contains a mix of yeast and bacteria. The bacteria in your vagina that produces acid (this bacteria is called Lactobacillus bacteria) is responsible for making sure that the yeast in your vagina doesn’t grow too much. However, if something happens that messes with this balance, there can be an increase of yeast (or more specifically, a fungus called Candida) leading to a vaginal yeast infection.
Things that can mess with the healthy balance in your vagina include:
- Antibiotics, all of us have taken them at some time for flu and other illnesses
- Uncontrolled Diabetes
- A weak immune system
- Douching (squirting or spraying liquids up the vagina to rinse it)
- Unhealthy eating, especially too many sugary foods
In some cases, women will not experience symptoms. However in most cases, symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include:
- White, thick discharge from the vagina (might look similar to cottage cheese)
- Pain around your vagina
- Pain during sex
- Pain when peeing
If you do suspect that you have a vaginal yeast infection, it’s best to go to your nearest clinic and see a doctor so that you can get a proper diagnosis (and also make sure to it’s not a more serious infection). Your doctor will also give you medication or a prescription to help treat the infection.
To prevent yeast infections, here are a few tips:
- Don’t squirt liquids up your vagina in an attempt to clean it ‘thoroughly’. Doing this can remove some of the bacteria that keeps you from getting infections. Warm water and a washcloth should be enough to keep your vagina (or vulva) clean. Don’t use scented feminine products around your vagina (bubble baths, soaps, sprays, pads, tampons)
- Don’t wear tight underwear, pantyhose or pants and change out of wet and sweaty clothes as soon as you can (this is to avoid heat and moisture)
- Wear cotton underwear
- Change your pads, tampons and panty liners often
- Avoid jumping into a bath with really hot water
- After using the bathroom, always wipe from front to back
- If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control
You can get yeast infections more than once. Some women end up getting it often. If you find that you’re getting yeast infections often, speak to a healthcare provider.
So while a vaginal yeast infection is not necessarily an STI, it can be sexually transmitted. Both men and women can spread yeast infections. So remember to wear a condom during vaginal, oral or anal sex to avoid spreading the infection.
If you do have it, it’s best to wait for the infection to be treated before you have sex again.
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