Contributed by Dr. Chris Hayes, M.D., Michelle Cohen, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., & Erin Kaufmann, B.S.
Introduction by Tyler Achilles, B.A.
Most of us don’t like to openly talk about stuff that’s going on down there, but it’s important to learn about your body and get proper treatment if something’s not feeling right. We received this question about yeast infections from a student – check out what some of our contributors had to say below:
Dr. Chris Hayes, a physician at University of Louisiana at Lafayette, has some advice for both women and men …
In women, yeast is a frequent inhabitant of the vaginal canal. Anything that disrupts the usual vaginal environment can allow yeast to overgrow, resulting in symptoms of itching, irritation, and discharge. Frequent intercourse and the trauma involved could conceivably disrupt things enough to allow this, but the symptoms could also be related to an allergic or irritant reaction to lubricants, spermicides, or cleansing products. There is also a risk of sexually transmitted organisms like trichomonas or herpes, which can both cause symptoms very similar to a yeast infection. The best way to tell the difference is for you to see your health care provider and get a pelvic exam.
Men rarely get yeast infections, but yeast can affect the foreskin and penis, causing a condition called “balanitis.” Because the condition is rare, if you have any swelling, itching, or irritation of the foreskin or penis, you should not assume it is caused by yeast until you see your health care provider to rule out other things.
Michelle Cohen, a health educator at Georgia Tech, says …
That is a great question! While too much sex does not directly cause a yeast infection, sexual activity can change the balance of normal bacteria in the vagina, leaving room for yeast to grow.
Yeast infections can also be caused by other things college students regularly experience – being stressed out, lack of sleep, poor eating habits, and being sick. They can be caused by taking certain medications, including antibiotics and hormonal contraception, using scented soaps, and douching.
If you haven’t been checked out by a health care provider, consider visiting the health center on campus. If you do in fact have a yeast infection, treatments are available from a doctor or over the counter.
If you are experiencing vaginal irritation and it isn’t a yeast infection, it could be caused by not using enough lubrication during sex. To reduce irritation in the future, consider using a water- or silicone-based lubricant.
Erin Kaufmann, a senior health promotion and behavior major at the University of Georgia, says …
Yeast infections happen because of a pH imbalance in your vagina; in other words, the normal environment down there has changed. Because your pH is out of whack, the good bacteria in your body can’t regulate the amount of yeast fungus. The yeast multiplies, and you itch; or unfortunately, you might burn, have discharge, or feel a burning sensation when you urinate. Over-the-counter or prescription medications are available to treat a yeast infection.
So what causes a yeast infection? Too much yeast can grow when your normal environment changes because of antibiotics, changes in your hormone levels, or a weakened immune system. Spending too much time in a wet bathing suit or synthetic underwear might also cause one because it provides a warm, moist environment that yeast loves to grow in. But can too much sex cause a yeast infection? Bacteria travel between partners during sex, so a change in the normal bacterial environment may allow yeast to grow (especially if your partner and his bacteria are new). But intercourse does not directly cause a yeast infection. It is important to use a condom during sex, and to regularly wash your vulva with mild soap and water, especially after intercourse.
For more information, log in to MyStudentBody and check out the Sexual Health topic area at the lower left of the My Stuff page.
You can also check out these resources: