If avoiding infection is your goal, wearing full-butt undies (bikinis, briefs, hipsters) with a breathable cotton crotch is best, Dr. Yamaguchi says. Or opt for seamless full styles, which tend to be made of synthetic fabric but are still better than a thong in this case because they’re not, well, shoved up your crotch. Whatever you wear, make sure your pair fits well and is not overly tight, Dr. Yamaguchi advises—again, to avoid chafing and spreading potentially harmful bacteria.But if you don’t want to deal with undie lines or you’re just not a full-bottom person, then going commando is a healthier habit to ward off infection. Yes, a tight pair of yoga pants could also trap sweat, but they’re also not rubbing against your anus and then vagina as you move, Dr. Yamaguchi says. Ideally, the crotch of the pants will be made of moisture-wicking fabric, adds Dr. Dweck, since, again, bacteria thrive in a moist environment.The vulva-friendly way to wear yoga pantsOf course, there are a lot of factors that could potentially lead to a vaginal infection or irritation, but making health-conscious underwear choices is an easy way to decrease your risk of both, Dr. Dweck says. Here are a few more gyno-approved tips to keep in mind:Swap undies. If you’re going from work to the gym, are currently wearing a thong, and want to continue wearing a thong, change into a new one, advises Dr. Yamaguchi. A clean pair ensures that the back strip of fabric is free from bacteria from your rectum prior to working out.Change ASAP. Regardless of what underwear you wore (or didn’t wear!) to exercise, “get out of your wet workout garments as soon as you’re able to” in order to help avoid irritation or a possible infection, Dr. Dweck says. And if you’re showering after your workout, be sure to towel yourself off well for the same reasons.Clean up with mild soap. Speaking of showering, washing the sweat and bacteria away from your vulva after a workout can also keep it happy, but if yours is on the sensitive side (i.e., you regularly experience irritation or infection), Dr. Dweck recommends sticking with mild soap and water. Check the label and look for words like “mild,” “gentle,” or “sensitive”—and avoid fragrance if you can, since added scents can be irritating, she says. (Also worth noting: Soap should only be used around your vulva—it should never go inside your vagina. That usually doesn’t end well!)Let your vulva breathe. After your shower, change into underwear (thong or otherwise) that has a cotton or moisture-wicking crotch. It’s also ideal to wear clothes that are on the looser side to let the area breathe, Dr. Dweck says—this helps keep moisture away from your vulva. What you want to avoid is showering and then putting your sweaty yoga pants back on, she adds.Don’t worry if you forget. If you’re about to work out or halfway through your routine and realize you’re wearing a thong under your yoga pants, it’s okay. Just try to remember next time—and don’t sweat it. (Har, har.) “You are not going to permanently ruin your vagina by wearing a thong to a hot yoga class,” Dr. Yamaguchi says.Related:
There’s a lot to love about college: sudden independence, late nights with new people who turn into lifelong friends, and endless opportunities to learn and grow. It can also keep you super busy—a packed schedule probably means that checking out various campus services is the last thing on your mind. But if there’s one service you use, make it your student health center.Not only will it put your health into your own hands (which may be a new thing for you), but it will help you stay on your A-game all throughout college. And if this is the first time you’ve had access to a one-stop shop for all your health needs, you may not even know everything that is available to you. In fact, when the SELF team discussed their biggest health-related college regrets, an overwhelming number of people said they wish they’d taken advantage of their campus health center.So here’s a rundown of the most important services that your student health center has to offer and why you should definitely check them out.1. You’re already paying for these health services.Here’s the thing: The cost of college includes tuition, room and board, and various student fees. Those fees generally include student health services, which means you might already be paying to access those resources. So why not make the most of it?For example, the health fee is mandatory for all students at UNC-Chapel Hill, whether or not they actually visit the health center, Ken Pittman, MHA, FACHE, executive director of campus health services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tells SELF. (Though 78% of students do utilize the university’s health services at least once a year, he notes). Basic services such as primary care visits, gynecology checkups, urgent care, and mental health counseling are covered under that fee, he says—so they won’t be billed to health insurance at all.As for services not covered by the student health fee? These vary at each school, but can include lab tests, like rapid flu testing, X-rays, and some procedures (for example, some campus health centers do IUD insertions and others don’t), says Pittman. These services are billed to the student’s personal health insurance, which may be required at some institutions.Remember, you can stay on your parents’ health insurance plan until you turn 26 years old, per Healthcare.gov, so you might have coverage that way. Many colleges and universities even offer students medical insurance plans, which may be another option for you. To learn more about your school’s specific health care requirements, chat with the folks at your campus health center.2. It makes it easy to schedule regular checkups.When you’ve got papers to write and classes to attend, getting annual checkups can feel like a drag. Besides, if you feel fine (save for the occasional sleepless night), do you really need routine checkups?TBH, yes. Regular checkups are a form of preventive care, which can help you identify or avoid health issues before they become bigger problems that require treatment. This involves services like routine blood tests, mental health screenings, and physical examinations, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Yes, your childhood primary care doctor, if you have one, can perform these services—but thanks to your student health center, you won’t need to wait until you’re back home to book an appointment.
If you’re currently dealing with a swollen vagina or vulva, it’s understandable to have questions—like, a lot of them. One biggie: How long does it usually take for that swelling to calm down?Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. “It really depends on what’s causing it,” Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando, tells SELF. “It could be a day or a couple of weeks.” (For your sake, we’ll hope it’s the former.)Unfortunately, the answer might not always be obvious, as there are several issues that can cause a swollen vagina or vulva (including your labia and clitoris). Here’s a breakdown of what might be triggering the puffiness, plus when you need to see a doctor already.Let’s talk about vaginitis, the most likely reason you could have a swollen vagina or vulva.If you have swollen labia and it’s not going away, you probably want to check in with your doctor. While you wait to be seen, here’s what you should know: It’s not uncommon to deal with vaginal and vulvar inflammation in general for a whole bevy of reasons. This is known broadly as vaginitis, an umbrella term for various causes of inflammation or infection of the vagina and/or vulva, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).First, there’s noninfectious vaginitis, which is caused by dermatitis, the medical term for skin inflammation, per the Mayo Clinic.Dermatitis—specifically contact dermatitis—typically happens around your vulva or vaginal area when something irritates your skin or causes an allergic reaction.1 The specific irritant in question can vary based on your skin’s sensitivities. When it comes to the vulva and vagina, however, some of the main culprits include soaps, douches, and bubble bath products, Mary Rosser, MD, PhD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, tells SELF. In addition to the swelling, you might notice itching, stinging or burning, or blisters.Here’s some general advice: It’s best to keep anything with fragrance away from your vulva and vagina, period. Yes, even soap, because it might bother the truly delicate skin of your genitals. You actually don’t need to clean your vulva with anything but water, but if you truly feel compelled, use the gentlest soap you can find and try to make sure none gets inside of you, where it can cause more irritation.That said, we’ll walk through some of the most common reasons your vagina and/or vulva might be swollen and irritated, including products you might not even be aware are a problem.Back to top1. Scented tampons or padsScented tampons and pads have mostly fallen out of favor over concerns that they introduce unnecessary fragrances to your vaginal area. But there are still plenty floating around out there disguised under the promise of being “odor blocking.”But Dr. Greves says you shouldn’t fall for this misleading (and stigmatizing) marketing. “You can swell up easily from a scented tampon or pad,” she notes.According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), you might experience irritant or contact dermatitis due to the fragrance in these products, which can lead to a rash, excessively dry skin that peels or cracks, tender skin, burning or stinging, hives, or even blisters in addition to swelling.What to know about treatment: This really depends on how bad your swelling is. For starters, Dr. Greves recommends that you stop using scented tampons and pads ASAP and see where that gets you. “Sometimes the swelling will go away quickly,” Lauren Streicher, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF.When to see a doctor: If you’ve stopped using scented tampons or pads and your swelling is sticking around for more than a day, Dr. Greves says it’s time to see a doctor, who may prescribe a steroid cream to help resolve the situation. Ditto if you feel like your symptoms are getting worse.Back to top2. Scented laundry detergentLaundry detergent seems innocent enough, but it can definitely wreak havoc on the delicate skin of your vulva, including your labia and clitoris. It’s a similar situation to using a scented pad or harsh soap, some laundry detergents contain fragrances that can irritate your vulva, causing contact dermatitis, Dr. Streicher says.
You might love basking in the summer heat and spending hours in a swimsuit. But your vagina? Not so much. Some common warm-weather habits can lead to irritation or wreak havoc on your precious vaginal flora, which is the delicate balance of bacteria and other microbes that keep your vagina healthy, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Disturbing that balance can increase the chances of developing a fungal or bacterial infection.Moisture, which is plentiful in the summer, is one of the most common things that can alter vaginal flora, Erin Higgins, MD, an ob-gyn at the Independence Family Health Center in Independence, Ohio, tells SELF. “Warmer days can cause you to sweat more and that moist climate can result in the overgrowth of certain yeasts and bacteria,” Dr. Higgins says.Summer is too fleeting to let crotch woes hold you back from thoroughly enjoying beach days. Here’s how you can keep your vagina healthy during these super sweaty months.1. Change out of wet or damp clothing.“Staying in a wet swimsuit is probably the most common bad practice around swimsuits,” Dr. Higgins says. Moisture from pool water or the ocean coupled with sweat creates the perfect breeding ground for potentially harmful pathogens, she says.Changing into clean, loose-fitting clothing after you’re done swimming is a good habit to adopt, Rebecca Scarseth, DO, an ob-gyn at the Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin, tells SELF. So throw some breathable, cotton underwear and loose-fitting shorts into your beach bag for a wardrobe change to help keep things dry. (You can also change into a clean, dry swimsuit if you prefer.)If you don’t have access to a restroom or changing room, Dr. Scarseth recommends changing as soon as you can—the key is to reduce your time in wet bottoms, especially if you already have a history of vaginal infections. You should also try to follow the same practice after working up a sweat in workout shorts or pants, Dr. Scarseth says.2. Avoid re-wearing an unwashed bathing suit.Both Dr. Scarseth and Dr. Higgins say bathing suits are one-use-only items—regardless of whether they touch any water. Even if your suit looks clean, the material comes into contact with bacteria from your vagina and backside after just one use. More bacteria accumulates the next time you put it on, which may increase your risk of infection or even just general irritation down there, Dr. Scarseth says.She recommends washing swimwear using unscented laundry detergent because fragrances can dry and irritate the skin. If you have dry or sensitive skin, then it’s best to look for products labeled as hypoallergenic, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Health experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend washing underwear and other bottoms like bathing suits using the hot water setting on your machine, which research1 shows may help reduce any microbes lingering on your suit. Some swimwear care labels may recommend hand washing the item, which Dr. Scarseth and Dr. Higgins say is probably just fine—as long as you clean your garment thoroughly and rinse out all the soap.3. Don’t share swimwear if you’re prone to vaginal infections.You may be tempted to borrow a friend’s one-piece when the pool is calling and your bathing suit sits at home. But borrowing your bestie’s swimwear (even if it’s clean) may not be worth it if you’re prone to infections. “It’s best to avoid sharing swimsuits. Even if washed, swimsuit bottoms can still harbor bacteria that could lead to an infection,” Dr. Scarseth says.
Boob sweat is unavoidable, which is a good thing (biologically speaking) because perspiring is how you stay cool on scorching hot days or during intense workouts. But boob sweat dripping down your chest and soaking through your clothes can be physically uncomfortable for numerous reasons. And when moisture accumulates to form underboob sweat, you may experience intense itching, skin irritation, or an infection, which is enough to ruin an otherwise-blissful summer day.“Excessive moisture on the skin, especially when there isn’t appropriate airflow, can result in rawness or what we call intertrigo, which is basically a rash that occurs in skin creases,” Sherry Yang, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at Jefferson University in Philadelphia, tells SELF.Intertrigo is caused by skin-on-skin chafing or skin-on-material rubbing, which gets worse when you sweat. If this becomes a chronic issue, you could develop tiny breaks in your skin, making it easier to develop a bacterial, fungal, or yeast infection, Dr. Yang says. Ouch.Sweating is a necessary process, but it shouldn’t make you so uncomfortable that you can’t think of anything else. Read on to learn how dermatologists recommend tackling underboob sweat and moisture-related discomfort.Why do boobs sweat?“Sweating is the basic biological function to regulate body temperature and keep us cool when our body temperature is increasing,” Dr. Yang says.In order to operate as it should, the human body needs to maintain a core, meaning internal, body temperature ranging between 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit1. If your core temperature gets too hot, your brain tells your sweat glands it’s time to release moisture to the surface of your skin. Then, your sweat evaporates, allowing your body to cool and return to its ideal state. Body temperature increases for a variety of reasons including warm weather, exercise, and hot flashes. Cue the sweating. When it comes to boob sweat, perspiration tends to accumulate in the cleavage and under the boobs thanks to skin folds that prevent moisture from drying.Back to topWhy does the sweat between my breasts smell?Some people may notice an odor when they perspire even though sweat itself is odor-free. There are two types of sweat glands, eccrine and apocrine2, and the latter causes smelly sweat. In addition to sweat, apocrine glands release substances like fat and proteins that can lead to body odor when sweat mixes with the normal bacteria found on the skin. Apocrine glands are mainly located in the groin, armpits, and around the nipples, so these areas may have an odor.Back to topWhat can I do about sweat under my breasts?You can’t stop boob sweat, but you can make some lifestyle and skin care tweaks to decrease perspiration, reduce odor, and prevent irritation. Try the following tips to help you get through those brutal summer months.1. Avoid wearing skin-tight shirts.Loose-fitting tops allow more airflow between the breasts, which prevents sweat from pooling in your skin creases. Another reason to keep things flowy? Tight clothes create the perfect humid environment for bacterial, yeast, and fungal growth, which could lead to an infection if you have intertrigo from chafing.2. Opt for breathable fabrics.“Cotton clothing keeps your skin much cooler than a lot of non-breathable, synthetic fabrics that really trap moisture into the skin, which can make people a lot more prone to sweating and irritation,” Megan Rogge, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, tells SELF. In particular, polyester clothes tend to hold in sweat and odor more than cotton3. While cotton can help keep you from getting so sweaty, it’s not the best at facilitating evaporation since it absorbs moisture. So, if you know you’re going to get really sweaty—for example, when you’re working out—choose clothes made with moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester or polypropylene that can help pull sweat away from the skin, per Cleveland Clinic.3. Choose lighter-colored clothes.Dark fabrics are better at hiding sweat stains, but they tend to absorb heat from the environment, which is passed onto your body4. To keep cool during the warmer months, wear lighter colors like white to help reflect heat.4. Swipe an antiperspirant onto your chest.Antiperspirants aren’t just for your armpits—they can help reduce sweat on your chest, too. Generally, products that don’t irritate your armpits can be used on your chest, Dr. Rogge says. Keep in mind that over-the-counter antiperspirants and deodorants labeled as “clinical strength” can be irritating for some people, so if a product causes a rash under your arms, then you don’t want to use it on your chest, Dr. Rogge says.5. Soak up sweat with cotton inserts.Cotton bra liners are a real thing and they can save you from dealing with underboob sweat and rashes, according to Dr. Rogge. These inserts, which can be washed after every use, are placed between your bra and skin to absorb sweat so moisture doesn’t pool under your boobs. There are many types of liners, but Dr. Rogge recommends using cotton liners, like this highly-rated option from More of Me to Love ($30, Amazon). In a pinch, you can use organic cotton panty liners instead, Dr. Yang says. “Maxi pads are very absorbent, as we know,” she says.6. Change garments frequently.It’s impractical to always carry a backup shirt and bra that you can switch into after breaking a sweat. If you want to and can, then great. At the very least, Dr. Rogge recommends changing out of your workout clothes and sports bra as soon as you can to minimize your risk of developing skin irritation and infections.7. Go braless if you feel comfortable doing so.Remember when we said your breasts need airflow? One easy way to give them ample breathing room is to go braless as often as you can. There’s no better time for that than in the heat of summer.8. Try using absorbent body powder to soak up sweat.When the overall goal is to stay dry, Dr. Yang recommends using over-the-counter Gold Bond TalcFree Powder ($4, Amazon, which includes cornstarch to help absorb moisture and reduce friction. If you have a higher risk of developing fungal infections, like if you participate in contact sports or have a weakened immune system, then you may want to use a medicated product like Zeasorb Antifungal Treatment Powder ($11, Amazon), Dr. Yang says. “It’s going to absorb, and it also usually has an active ingredient to combat the overgrowth of yeast,” she explains. Before using any product, try testing a small amount on the target area to make sure it doesn’t irritate your skin.9. Wash with an antiseptic cleanser if you’re prone to bacterial infections.If you have recurring bacterial infections in the breast area, talk to your doctor about using an over-the-counter antiseptic cleanser like Hibiclens, Dr. Yang says. The soap contains chlorhexidine gluconate, which is an ingredient that helps reduce pathogenic bacteria5. Some people with sensitive skin may find antiseptic cleansers irritating, so it’s important to follow the recommended usage instructions on the bottle.10. Use a benzoyl peroxide cleanser to manage inflamed bumps.“Sometimes, people get folliculitis in areas of excessive sweat,” Dr. Yang says. Folliculitis happens when noninfectious bacteria cause inflammation in your hair follicles, producing bumps that can look a lot like acne. In that case, Dr. Yang recommends washing your chest with an over-the-counter cleanser that contains benzoyl peroxide to kill the bacteria and reduce inflammation.11. Apply skin-barrier balm to reduce irritation.“For people who have issues with chronic chafing, I recommend using Body Glide sticks,” Dr. Yang says. Keep in mind these won’t reduce sweat, but they can be used in conjunction with cotton inserts to help reduce uncomfortable rubbing. You can find BodyGlide at drug stores or online retailers ($9, Amazon). Or, you can look for the Vaseline All-Over Body Balm, which may be easier to find in drugstores ($19 for a pack of three, Amazon).12. Be aware of sweat and odor-promoting foods and drinks.If you regularly consume alcoholic beverages, caffeine, and spicy food like chili peppers, we regret to inform you that all three can lead to increased sweat output. Additionally, eating foods high in sulfur such as cabbage and broccoli can lead to smelly sweat, per the Cleveland Clinic. Sulfur, which smells a lot like rotten eggs, can be excreted through sweat and produce an odor. If your body odor or the amount you perspire changes after consuming a particular item, you may want to consider cutting back on that food or drink. (Or at least minimize your triggers during the warmer months when it’s particularly hot or before attending an event where you’d rather stay dry and fresh.)13. Revamp how you sleep to tackle night sweats.If you wake up with boob sweat, Dr. Rogge recommends sleeping braless on your back since lying on your stomach restricts airflow. If you can, keep your room between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the recommended sleep temperature for getting good sleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Otherwise, use a fan and wear breathable pajamas if you prefer to wear clothes while sleeping.14. Visit a board-certified dermatologist if nothing helps.If you can’t stay dry even when the weather is mild and you’re constantly worried about boob sweat, it’s worth consulting with a dermatologist. They can help determine if something else is causing your symptoms, such as hyperhidrosis, which is a condition that happens when your sweat glands are overstimulated and produce excessive sweat. Generally, hyperhidrosis affects the hands, underarms, and feet, but it can impact your breasts6. Thankfully, there are several treatments, including prescription-strength antiperspirants as well as topical and oral medications like glycopyrrolate that help reduce sweat production, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first oral antifungal medication, called Vivjoa, to specifically treat recurrent vaginal yeast infections. The administration said in a report that the medication could help stop recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC) for people “who are not of reproductive potential.” Around 5% of people with vaginas deal with RVVC, meaning they get four or more vaginal yeast infections each year, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health.A vaginal yeast infection is extremely uncomfortable and disruptive because it can result in itching and burning of the vulva (the area around the vagina), pain while urinating, pain during sex, and thick vaginal discharge. A yeast infection develops when the fungus Candida, which naturally exists in the vagina, grows excessively. Those who are more susceptible to recurrent vaginal yeast infections include people who are pregnant; people who regularly douche or use vaginal sprays; people who recently took steroids, antibiotics, or high-estrogen birth control; immunocompromised people, such as those with HIV; or people with uncontrolled diabetes. The medication should be taken two days in a row; 14 days after the first dose, it should be taken once a week for 11 weeks, according to Mycovia Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Vivjoa.The average vaginal yeast infection can usually be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medication, like Monistat or Vagisil, both of which are vaginal creams. The antifungal fluconazole (Diflucan), a tablet that is taken once, is often prescribed to treat yeast infections, though some people can become resistant to the drug over time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suppositories, which are inserted into the vagina, are also sometimes used to treat yeast infections.Historically, people with recurrent vaginal yeast infections haven’t had great treatment options. “Prior to its approval, the FDA-approved treatments on the market were only indicated for the treatment of an acute infection,” Leah. S. Millheiser, MD, FACOG, NCMP, tells SELF. “This approval is significant because, although not that common, recurrent vaginal yeast infections can be very distressing for an individual and can have a negative impact on overall quality of life.”As we previously mentioned, Vivjoa is only available to certain people who have been diagnosed with RVVC since it is not recommended for people of “reproductive potential.” Studies on animals have shown the drug can potentially cause damage to the fetus if you were to become pregnant while on the medication. According to the FDA, the drug is only recommended for people who are biologically female and postmenopausal or permanently infertile due to tubal ligation, hysterectomy, or other factors.Oteseconazole, the active ingredient in Vivjoa, inhibits the fungal growth that causes a yeast infection and was designed to treat recurrent infections, specifically. In two global studies, 93.3% and 96.1% of people with RVVC who were treated with Vivjoa did not experience a recurrent yeast infection in close to a year after taking the drug compared to 57.2% and 60.6% of people who were given a placebo. Across the FDA’s three clinical trials conducted before approval, a total of 580 people with RVVC aged between 18 to 44 years old were treated with Vivjoa for three months. Adverse reactions weren’t common: 0.2% of the people treated with Vivjoa reported allergic dermatitis (an allergic reaction that results in an uncomfortable skin rash) and less than 2% experienced headache and nausea. (While these were the most common side effects, the FDA says others are possible, so it’s important to have that discussion with your doctor before moving forward with the medication.)If you’re not sure whether your yeast infection situation warrants a drug like Vivjoa, talk to your primary care doctor or ob-gyn to see if it might be right for you. You shouldn’t have to put up with constant symptoms—so it’s important to advocate for the care you need and deserve by exploring all your options.Related:
Back to topHow long do penile yeast infections last?This depends on how advanced the yeast infection is, how fast you treat it, and how well it responds to medication. If you treat the infection with over-the-counter meds, you’ll usually apply these for one to three weeks.2 Ideally, this will be enough to make the yeast infection go away for good. If that doesn’t do the trick, you’ll need to see your doctor for next steps and an updated timeline. You’ll most likely need to take a single dose of oral antifungal medication, or if symptoms are severe, two single doses, three days apart, according to the Mayo Clinic.Back to topAre penile yeast infections contagious?Practically speaking, yes, you can pass a yeast infection to another person through vaginal, anal, or oral sex, but it’s not really the same thing as an STI like gonorrhea or chlamydia. That’s because everyone naturally has Candida living on their bodies. With a transmitted yeast infection, though, it really comes down to how your body reacts to someone else’s overgrowth of yeast, according to Planned Parenthood.If you keep getting penile yeast infections and you aren’t sure why, it may be a good idea to talk to your partner about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. A doctor can test both you and your partner for the presence of yeast and recommend treatments to help if they confirm that you’re passing an infection back and forth (which can turn into a vicious cycle quickly when left untreated).So, do you have to wait until the yeast infection is gone to have sex? Generally, that is the safest option, but it really depends on the underlying cause of your infection and your doctor’s advice. They will likely give you the green light once your physical symptoms have gone away.Back to topCan you tell the difference between a penile yeast infection vs. a UTI vs. an STI?A penile yeast infection can closely resemble other health problems, including a urinary tract infection (UTI) or various STIs, but there are a few key differences. For one, they are all caused by different things (fungus, bacteria, and viruses are all in the mix here), and so they each have varying treatments.While a penile yeast infection will usually cause intense itching and white spots on the skin of the penis, a urinary tract infection will not. A UTI may also present with a few extra symptoms like fever and a near-constant urge to pee even if not much comes out, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).An STI may be a little more difficult to differentiate, since a number of sexually transmitted infections can cause symptoms that overlap with those of a penile yeast infection, like pain while urinating or having sex, inflamed skin, and discharge. When in doubt, see your doctor who can perform a physical exam and order any needed testing—you’ll likely need prescribed treatment regardless of your diagnosis.Back to topHow can I prevent a penile yeast infection?Since hot, humid conditions encourage yeast to thrive, it’s especially important to wash the penis (and foreskin, if you have it) with mild soap, especially after exercise and in the summer when the skin tends to be sweatier. Also, try to make sure the area under your foreskin is dry to halt eager yeast growth in its tracks.2 (A gentle pat down with a towel is all you need here!) Wearing breathable athletic wear may also be helpful during workouts and the warmer months, and change out of those clothes immediately after getting sweaty. It may also help to use some antifungal spray or powder on your genital area in the morning if you’re going to be working outside in hot weather. And since certain health conditions can increase your risk for a penile yeast infection, taking steps to manage your condition, such as keeping your blood sugar levels in check in the case of diabetes, is crucial for your overall health (and for trying to keep the yeast overlords at bay).With that said, penile yeast infections can just happen sometimes. Thankfully, there are lots of effective medication options, some of which you can even get at your local pharmacy. Because complications can be even more of a pain to deal with, getting on top of treatment as quickly as possible is the best way to get your life (and penis) back to baseline.Back to topSources:International Journal of Preventive Medicine, Penile Inflammatory Skin Disorders and the Preventive Role of CircumcisionStatPearls, BalanitisInternational Journal of Dermatology, Urologic Dermatology: A Comprehensive Foray Into the Noninfectious Etiologies of BalanitisRelated:
Kidney stones develop when salts and minerals commonly found in your pee pile up, crystalize, and stick together in your kidneys. Generally, this happens when your urine becomes concentrated for various reasons, including dehydration. For many people, drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help lower their chances of developing kidney stones4. But there are some medical conditions like gout (which causes joint swelling), that can increase your chances of developing these painful, pebble-like deposits, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Taking certain medications can also cause kidney stones.Interstitial cystitisInformally called “painful bladder syndrome,” this condition lives up to its name, as it can cause abdominal, bladder, and pelvic pain. (And yes, pain when peeing.) Generally, your pain starts when your bladder gets full and escalates until you let it all out. Then, you will have some relief until your bladder fills up again, according to the NIDDK. Aside from this, you may have the urge to use the bathroom very suddenly and more often than you normally do. Experts don’t know the exact cause of interstitial cystitis, but people who have the chronic condition may notice that dehydration, sex, and holding their pee makes their symptoms worse.Obstructive uropathyWith obstructive uropathy, your urine doesn’t drain through the urinary tract properly and backs up into your kidneys, causing a blockage. This typically happens as a complication of another health issue, such as kidney stones or a more serious condition like ovarian cancer, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Other signs of a blockage include pain in your sides (near your kidneys), getting the urge to pee often, decreased urine flow, and feeling like your bladder is never truly empty. If you think you have obstructive uropathy, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as you can because the blockage can cause bladder and kidney damage without treatment.Back to topHow do I stop my pee from burning?Treatments and remedies for dysuria largely depend on what’s causing that painful urination in the first place. In general, though, Dr. White says that “if the symptoms are persistent after two to three days, getting worse, associated with other bothersome symptoms like fever or ulcers on the vagina, these are all reasons to be seen by your doctor.”If it’s a UTI:If you suspect you have a UTI, it’s crucial to see a doctor who can order a urine culture to confirm your diagnosis. If you do have a UTI, then a round of antibiotics can kick the infection (and burning pee) to the curb. Otherwise, your doctor can work with you to determine the real cause of your discomfort when urinating. As we mentioned, if left untreated, a UTI can spread and turn into a kidney infection, which can be potentially life-threatening. In addition to being more likely to get a UTI if you have a vagina, you’re also more likely to get a UTI if you’re sexually active, have a suppressed immune system, are in menopause, or have kidney stones or other complications blocking your urinary tract (among other risk factors), according to the Mayo Clinic. Over-the-counter urinary pain relief meds, like Azo, can ease your symptoms, but do not treat the infection, Dr. White says. If UTIs regularly besiege your poor body, make sure to take preventive measures, like staying hydrated, wiping from front to back, and trying to pee after you have sex if that seems to set off symptoms for you. And if you specifically get two or more UTIs in six months or four or more within a year, your doctor may be able to offer you preventive treatment like a single-dose antibiotic you take after sex, the Mayo Clinic says. People who have gone through menopause may take topical vaginal estrogen to help with recurrent UTIs. If it’s a yeast infection:Antifungal medications can clear up the infection (and symptoms like painful urination). Some of these are available over the counter, and some are prescribed. With that said, it can be smart to talk to a doctor before grabbing an OTC medication, especially since some other vaginal issues, including STIs or UTIs, can seem a lot like yeast infections. (Here’s a more in-depth explanation of treating a yeast infection at home.) Beyond that, if you have four or more yeast infections a year, you can talk to your doctor about preventative strategies, who will likely prescribe a longer course of antifungals. To avoid recurrent yeast infections, Dr. Yamaguchi recommends wearing cotton underwear for breathability (or at least underwear that has a cotton crotch) and changing ASAP after you work out instead of staying in sweaty gear because yeast can thrive in moist and warm environments5.If it’s bacterial vaginosis:Your doctor can do a few simple tests to determine what type of infection you have, and if they find bacterial vaginosis is behind your dysuria symptoms, they’ll prescribe antibiotics for you to take either orally or vaginally, the Mayo Clinic says.If it’s an STI:If you’ve been sexually active and are now feeling pain after peeing, it’s worth heading to the doctor to be safe, if you can. If you do have an STI, treatment depends on what type you’re diagnosed with. If it’s herpes, your doctor will probably prescribe antiviral medication like acyclovir (Zovirax) or valacyclovir (Valtrex) to use when you have symptoms, the Mayo Clinic says. For chlamydia, you’ll likely be treated with antibiotics, the CDC says. If gonorrhea is the cause of your painful urination, the CDC recommends having a single dose shot of intramuscular ceftriaxone and an oral dose of the antibiotic azithromycin. For trichomoniasis, your doctor will recommend that you take a large dose of either metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax), the Mayo Clinic says. It’s really important to get tested for an STI if you think you have one. Left untreated, some infections (like chlamydia and gonorrhea) can have long-term consequences including infertility.If it’s a sex-related vaginal tear:To cut back on that yikes-inducing feeling, Dr. Yamaguchi recommends pouring warm water over your vaginal area while you’re peeing. “The temperature will help interfere with the nerve pathways,” she says. And to avoid the issue altogether, she suggests making sure you’re plenty lubed up whenever your vagina’s getting some attention. If your vaginal tissue is more fragile due to atrophy and lubrication doesn’t help prevent abrasions, you can ask your doctor about other options like estrogen replacement therapy, Dr. White advises.If it’s a childbirth-related vaginal tear:Pain related to vaginal and/or perineal tears is an unfortunately common circumstance after vaginal childbirth. There are a few strategies you can try for relief, like using perineal irrigation bottles. These are devices many new moms rely on that make it even easier to squirt warm water on themselves to dull the pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may also want to try using ice packs (wrapped in something like a towel to protect your skin), taking sitz baths, or putting chilled witch hazel pads on the affected area (a sanitary pad in your underwear will help keep the witch hazel pads in place). Pain relievers, numbing sprays, and stool softeners may also help—talk to your doctor to figure out what might be right for you.If it’s due to products like soap or douches:This is more about prevention. Stop using any products you think are giving you trouble—these commonly include scented soaps, vaginal hygiene products, and douches. Try replacing them with gentle, fragrance-free soap and some water to wash your vulva (your external genitalia). Again, you don’t even need to wash your actual vagina. Let it clean itself in peace, please!If it’s post-menopause atrophic vaginitis:Sadly, many people who experience this dysuria cause don’t seek treatment, either because they’ve given up hope on feeling better or they’re too shy to discuss it with their doctor, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you’re dealing with this, chat with your doctor to determine whether hormonal supplementation with estrogen may help your symptoms, and if not, how to find relief. Other options include vaginal moisturizers, lubricants, dilators, and numbing agents, the Mayo Clinic says.If it’s kidney stones:Treatment depends on the type of kidney stones you have (yes, there are numerous types based on the substance they’re made of), their size, why you developed them in the first place, and your specific symptoms, according to the NIDDK. A doctor can run multiple tests, such as a urine test to look for high amounts of minerals, or an X-ray to look at the size and location of your kidney stones. Your treatment can be as simple as drinking lots of water to help the stone pass (even though this will likely be painful), or it might involve having a procedure that uses sound waves to break up larger stones.If it’s interstitial cystitis:Since there’s no cure for this condition, treatment will aim to help relieve your individual symptoms. For example, you may drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration or try pelvic floor therapy if you have muscle spasms, according to the NIDDK. Bladder training6, which involves holding in your urine for longer than you typically do, may also help. Before you start a bladder training program on your own, though, it’s best to talk to your doctor about how to do this without making your symptoms worse.If it’s obstructive uropathy:If your symptoms suggest obstructive uropathy, chat with your doctor about testing, which may include an ultrasound of your abdomen or pelvis, according to NLM. If there is an obstruction, your doctor will talk through options about relieving symptoms and removing the blockage, depending on the root cause of the condition. For example, you may have a stent placed in your ureter to drain urine, in addition to surgery to repair the obstruction, according to NLM.
Back to topHow long does a yeast infection last?How long a yeast infection sticks around really depends on what’s happening in your vagina and your personal preferences in terms of yeast infection treatment. If your symptoms are mild to moderate, you can use a short-course antifungal medication for one to seven days, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. These come in a cream, ointment, tablet, or suppository and are available either over-the-counter or with a prescription. Most of these options will clear up the average infection in under a week.2Another method to consider is a one-and-done oral medication like fluconazole (Diflucan), a single-dose treatment your doctor can prescribe to treat a yeast infection. But if symptoms become severe or you’re prone to multiple infections, your doctor may recommend a more involved treatment plan such as more oral doses of fluconazole or alternative treatments that have been shown to help some people when other options don’t work, like boric acid, nystatin, or flucytosine, which you apply directly in the vagina, per the CDC. No matter what kind of yeast infection treatment you pursue, it’s incredibly important to finish the whole course of medication and to closely follow your doctor’s plan, even after your symptoms have cleared up. Otherwise, that pesky yeast can claw its way back into microbe domination.Back to topCan I have sex if I’m treating a yeast infection?Technically, yes, you can have sex while treating a vaginal yeast infection, but it’s definitely complicated and something you’ll probably want to avoid. Here’s why: If you’re treating a yeast infection with a vaginal suppository, ointment, or cream and decide to have sex, you run the risk of making your medication less effective—and possibly prolonging the infection.Oral medications also pose a problem because you still have to worry about further irritating your vagina during sex and making yourself more susceptible to other infections. Penetrative acts tend to involve a lot of friction, which can create micro-abrasions in your vagina if it’s already irritated, Jacques Moritz, M.D. an ob-gyn at Mount Sinai, tells SELF. Those tiny tears can cause your poor vagina to feel even more inflamed. Plus, micro-tears in your vagina can make you more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections because they create openings for illness-causing pathogens to enter more easily, Dr. Moritz says.Plus, there’s the issue of potentially passing a yeast infection to your partner, which is reason enough to wait. (More on this below.)Back to topAre yeast infections contagious?Let’s get right to the burning question: Is a yeast infection contagious? Yes and no. It’s not really “contagious” in the way we normally think of something being contagious, and here’s why: Your body chemistry can react to the overgrowth of yeast or bacteria present within your partner’s genitals or mouth, transferring yeast and causing your own yeast to grow. But this is not the same thing as spreading a sexually transmitted infection (STI), according to Planned Parenthood. In the case of an STI, viruses or bacteria that are not naturally present in your body are introduced, causing a host of symptoms.Practically speaking, though, you can pass a yeast infection to a partner, which is a big reason to wait to have sex. Another way you might transmit yeast is through kissing if you have an overgrowth of candida fungus in your mouth (known as oral thrush). Again, this is possible, but not likely. That’s because we all have candida present in our mouth, but it only becomes thrush when it overgrows. Otherwise, generally healthy people are not at an increased risk of developing thrush from close contact, per the Cleveland Clinic.
It could be nothing, but abdominal pain could also be a sign of ovarian cysts (fluid-filled sacs that develop on or in an ovary), uterine fibroids (typically benign growths that develop within the uterus), endometriosis (when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows in other parts of the body), or an ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg attaches to and grows outside of the main portion of the uterus)—“all things that need medical attention,” Dr. Wider says.And don’t wait to call: While you may think it makes sense to wait to see how your pain progresses throughout the day, calling your ob-gyn’s office at 5 p.m. when you’re in severe pain pretty much guarantees you’ll be told to go to the E.R. “But if you call in the morning, we can do an ultrasound,” says Dr. Streicher.3. A less-than-pleasant vaginal odorIf you notice a funky smell down south that doesn’t go away or get better, call your gynecologist. Sherry Ross, M.D., ob-gyn and women’s health expert at California’s Providence Saint John’s Health Center, tells SELF that a forgotten tampon is the most common cause of this—and that can increase your risk of infection or the extremely rare toxic shock syndrome, a life-threatening complication of certain bacterial infections. A strong vaginal odor can also be a sign of a vaginal infection, such as bacterial vaginosis (or BV, which is often the culprit behind a fishy smell). Basically, you’ll want to get that checked out ASAP to be on the safe side.4. Discharge that looks kind of weirdIf you just notice your discharge is a little different for one or two days, it’s likely nothing to worry about—it’s common for your discharge to change throughout your menstrual cycle due to hormonal fluctuations that happen during ovulation. Everyone has their own version of “normal” when it comes to discharge, but in general, it’s usually clear to white in color, can range from thin to thick consistency, and can have a slight smell but be pretty much odorless most of the time, per the ACOG.In addition to odor, if your discharge suddenly changes color or consistency, you should see your ob-gyn. It should not be a striking shade of green or look oddly clumpy. This, again, could be the result of a forgotten tampon, but it could also be a sign of infection, such as BV, a yeast infection, or an STD, per the Cleveland Clinic. It might also be a sign that something just isn’t agreeing with your vaginal area and causing irritation or an allergic reaction.5. Repeat pain during sexSex shouldn’t be painful, but sometimes the occasional lack of lube can make it a little uncomfortable, whether you physically didn’t apply any or you didn’t spend enough time on foreplay. However, if you regularly feel pain during sex or you have a sore vagina after sex, it could be a sign of an infection, hormonal issues, uterine fibroids, or vaginal dryness, among other issues, all of which your doctor can help you address, Dr. Wider says.6. Painful periodsWhile you may have the occasional achiness and cramps during that time of the month, your period shouldn’t be unbearably painful. Meaning, if you need to call out of work or bow out of plans because you’re feeling that much discomfort during your period, you need to tell your gynecologist about it. Painful periods that impact your quality of life can be a symptom of endometriosis, scarring from infections, or uterine fibroids, among other issues, Dr. Minkin says, so it’s crucial to get to the bottom of it. Once your doctor figures out what’s going on, they can help identify a treatment that may help reduce your pain—because you shouldn’t have to just put up with it.7. New vaginal bumps“There are so many different causes for vaginal bumps,” Dr. Greves says. That includes infected hair follicles, harmless cysts, and sexually transmitted infections. It’s also entirely possible to have a pimple or skin tag down there, so don’t automatically panic if you happen to spot or feel a bump near your vagina. But don’t write it off if it sticks around or causes discomfort, either, especially if you have a swollen vulva. “We need to look at it to see what it could be,” Dr. Greves says. Once your doctor identifies what it is, they can help you figure out the best way to get rid of it, if needed.8. Low libidoThere’s no set threshold for what clinically defines a “low libido,” but you’ll definitely be able to tell if your sex drive has plummeted recently. Dr. Minkin says this can be linked to so many factors, from dealing with relationship issues to hormonal fluctuations to side effects from certain medications, including antidepressants and birth control pills.