Top 7 Yeast Infection Myths Busted

top 7 yeast infection myths busted
Medically reviewed by Richard Honaker M.D.

Yeast infections are experienced by about 75 percent of women (and even a few men!), yet there are still many misconceptions still floating around about this common ailment. At Your Doctors Online, we want to dispel these common misconceptions. Check out the top seven yeast infections-busted!

While an estimated 75 percent of women will experience a yeast infection in their lifetime, the symptoms of a yeast infection (also known as vaginal yeast infection, yeast vaginitis, and vaginal candidiasis) can mimic those of similar afflictions. These include bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and dermatitis. In fact, 50 percent of women diagnosed with a yeast infection actually have a different affliction.

Yeast infections can be uncomfortable and annoying. Yeast infection questions are common and our doctors get asked about them via our FREE Dr. Chat a lot. To help answer some common yeast infection questions, we put together some helpful tips.

Yeast infections are common, yet uncomfortable. While common, yeast infections have attracted several myths we would like to dispel.

Common Yeast Infection Myths

There are plenty of yeast infection myths out there. Some women believe that chocolate makes yeast infections worse. Others believe gluten is to blame. And sex is to blame for others.

What is a recurrent yeast infection? When yeast infections happen four or more times per year, they are recurrent. However, this is not so common. Only up to eight percent of women will get recurrent yeast infections.

One of the issues is that women often believe they have a yeast infection and immediately reach for Monistat and other over-the-counter medications to rid the issue. This can cause yeast infections to become recurrent.

Yeast infection symptoms

Myth #1: Using a Condom During Sex Prevents Yeast Infections

Interestingly, 29 percent of women believe that using a condom will decrease their risk for yeast infections, according to a study by Monistat.

This is both fact and fiction. Condoms can help to prevent the spread of yeast infections between an infected partner and a non-infected partner. However, yeast infections are often caused when a change in the environment of the vagina and those changes can be signaled by an allergy.

Those who are allergic to latex may find that using latex condoms can trigger a yeast infection. Some condoms are covered in nonoxynol-9, a spermicide that may kill the HIV virus. Many studies have shown that nonoxynol-9 can be linked to yeast infections.

If you suspect a latex, you can try non-latex condoms or other barrier methods. Many types of condoms are available without nonoxynol-9.

Myth #2: Yeast Infections are a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)

This is a common misconception because yeast infections can be transmitted through sexual activity, and also initiated through the use of condoms or nonoxynol-9 (a type of spermicide).

While yeast infections can be transmitted through sexual activity, they have not been considered sexually transmitted infections. This is because yeast infections can happen to women who are not currently sexually active.

Couple

Just because you are experiencing symptoms after sex, it does not always point to a yeast infection.  Many similar symptoms can actually be a UTI or STD. It is important to talk to a doctor to make sure you are treating your ailment properly.

Related: Can You Have Sex with a Yeast Infection.

Myth #3: Yogurt Does not Treat Yeast Infections

Yogurt is an alternative health remedy for yeast infections. Many studies point to the possibility of yogurt being an effective alternative treatment for yeast infections for those who are either pregnant or those who do not want to risk the side effects of over-the-counter anti-fungal treatments.

Yogurt may be an effective remedy because it contains Lactobacillus bacteria. This is a healthy bacteria that can live in the vagina without irritating the area. It is believed that using yogurt containing good bacteria restores a healthful yeast balance in the vagina. Lactobacillus releases hydrogen peroxide, which kills Candida, combating infection.

healthy food

While this treatment may have worked for you in the past, it is important to discuss with a doctor, since the bacteria that cause infections are already in your body. Food may not be the best course of the first action.

If you do want to try and use yogurt as a natural option it is important to use natural, sweetener-free, and plain varieties.

Myth #4: Vaginal Washing Can Clear Up the Infection

Washing and keeping your vaginal area clean is important to your overall health and wellness but in moderation. This yeast infection myth is a common one, however, excessive washing of your vagina will not cure your infection. Using unscented soap, changing out of tight gym clothing, proper wiping, and wearing breathable cotton underwear can help prevent a yeast infection, but not cure it.

image of a shower head

In order to clear up your infection, it is important to treat the infection with anti-fungal treatment, whether you choose an over-the-counter option or an alternative treatment.

Myth #5: Swimming causes Yeast Infections

While yeast may thrive in warm and moist conditions, going for a dip in the pool is not going to cause a yeast infection. Yeast infections are caused by an imbalance between the bacteria and yeast in your vagina. While going swimming does not increase your risk of a yeast infection, sitting around in a wet bathing suit may encourage the growth of yeast.

young girl swimming under water

It is important to change out of a wet bathing suit after swimming into dry underwear. A breathable material, such as cotton, is best.

Myth #6: Only Women Get Yeast Infections

Yeast infections are not considered a sexually transmitted disease, but it can be spread by sexual contact. Despite the fact that this infection can be spread by sexual contact, it is not considered a STI since it can also be present in a woman who is not sexually active.

upset man

While it is considered rare, men can get yeast infections by having unprotected sex with a women who has a yeast infection. Men who are not circumcised are considered to be at an increased risk. For men, the symptoms of a yeast infection often appear as white spots or a rash on the penis along with peeling skin, itching, irritation, or burning.

Myth # 7: There Is No Way to Prevent Yeast Infections

While there is no way to prevent every single yeast infection, many can be prevented by following some good self-care methods and avoiding irritants that can disrupt your body’s natural balance.

woman happy to prevent yeast infection

Some best practices to avoid yeast infections:

  • Eat a diet that is low in sugar and low in carbohydrates
  • Eat lots of fruits and veggies for a boost in immunity and good gut health
  • Wear loose-fitting underwear in a breathable material (like cotton)
  • Change out of wet bathing suits and work out gear right away
  • Clean the outside of your vagina (vulva) with unscented soap. There is no need to clean the inside of the vagina or to use a douche.

The real issue here is that most women use products that treat symptoms and not the cause. Monistat is a good option, and of course, you should always talk to a doctor to ensure you actually have a yeast infection before doing any home treatment. The reasons you keep getting infections maybe something serious.

What is a Yeast Infection?

First, it is important to know what that discomfort below the waistline actually is. A yeast infection is simply an overgrowth of yeast due to an imbalance of bacteria in your most sensitive of areas.

Vaginas are usually able to be completely self-cleaning and able to regulate the balance between bacteria and yeast (a type of fungus). A yeast infection occurs when this natural balance is disrupted and an overgrowth of yeast occurs.

women bending over yeast infection pain

The majority of yeast infections (over 90 %) are caused by the species known as Candida albicans. The other 10 % are made up of other Candida species.

The presence of Candida species in the vagina is not enough to warrant a cause for alarm. In fact, an estimated 20 to 50 percent of healthy women have Candida already present in the vagina.

An infection will only occur if the natural balance between bacteria and yeast is disturbed. There are several external factors that can cause this imbalance.

Yeast Infection Symptoms Include:

  • Burning, and redness
  • Burning during urination
  • Vaginal pain during sex
  • General soreness
  • Vaginal Itching
  • Smelly Vaginal Discharge

The truth is, most women think they have a yeast infection, but do not. The medication easily purchased at the pharmacy can make it worse. If you have an itchy vagina, don’t immediately diagnose yourself with a yeast infection. Most women know these symptoms all too well. This uncomfortable infection is troublesome, but don’t let the following yeast infection myths make it worse.

Common Itchy Vagina Culprits

  • Douching
  • Over Washing
  • Wearing Tight Clothing (yoga pants)
  • Not Changing Sweaty Gym Shorts
  • Waxing
  • Shaving
  • Benzocaine Creams (Vagisil)
  • Spermicide Condoms
  • Lubrications                                               

Vaginal itching will not kill you, but it is very uncomfortable. But it is important to get the facts from a doctor before using yeast infection remedies that could possibly make things worse, or even cause a real yeast infection by wiping out the good bacteria needed.

Do you think you have a Urinary Tract Infection? Here are tips from a real doctor:

What Women Could Do First When Itching Happens

If you are experiencing yeast infection symptoms, it may be best to first try an antihistamine like Zyrtec, Claritin, or Allegra. This could reduce the inflammation that is causing your itchy, uncomfortable vagina. Topical steroids like one percent hydrocortisone may also help relieve itching.

The key takeaway is not everything uncomfortable that happens in your most sensitive of areas is a yeast infection.

By self-diagnosing and using yeast infection medications via the store could be making you have recurrent yeast infections or recurrent yeast infection symptoms. Before doing any DIY treatments you should talk to a doctor.

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Do you have questions about your downstairs mix-up? How about recurring yeast infections that never seem to go away? It is important to get the facts and stay clear of the myths. You can talk to a doctor via our free doctor chat now.

Doctors Treating this Issue
dr asim cheema

Dr. Asim Cheema

Internal Medicine

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