Yes, it is possible to pass a yeast infection through unprotected penetrative sex. This is because sexual activity introduces new bacteria that can change the balance of organisms in the vagina.
Over-the-counter antifungal creams, ointments and suppositories can help clear yeast infections. Other types of vaginal infections may have symptoms that resemble those of a yeast infection, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis from your doctor.
Yeast Infections Are Contagious
Men and women both get yeast infections of the genitals, which can be caused by too much candida (a type of fungus) in the vulva or on the penis. It’s a common infection that can cause inflammation, itching, vaginal discharge and other symptoms. A health care provider can diagnose it by swabbing the vagina or looking at the vulva, or by using an applicator to place antifungal medications in the vulva (suppositories). Most yeast infections clear up with a short course of medication.
While a yeast infection isn’t a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can be spread by having sex, it’s not a good idea to have penetrative sex while you have one because it disrupts the balance of bacteria in the vulva and can make it worse. It’s also a good idea to wear a condom when you have a vulva yeast infection because the friction can cause tiny cuts that increase the risk of STIs, such as HIV/AIDS.
People with certain conditions, such as diabetes or a weakened immune system due to chemotherapy, are more likely to get yeast infections because their bodies’ natural levels of healthy bacteria are altered. People who inject drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, are also at greater risk for getting a yeast infection because of unsafe injection practices that can cause bacterial infections in the bloodstream.
Yeast Infections Are Not Contagious
Yeast infections are not contagious in the way that colds or the flu are. They are a result of an overgrowth of the Candida fungus, which is normally in small amounts in the mouth, intestines, and vagina. A healthy immune system and some “good” bacteria keep the yeast level in these areas under control.
Yeast can spread through oral, vaginal, and anal sex, but only in rare cases. Men can also get a yeast infection on the penis, but this is less common. Yeast infections are more likely to happen in women.
It is important to avoid sexual activity until a yeast infection has been treated. Yeast infections can be very itchy and uncomfortable, and having sex can prolong the symptoms. It is important to use barrier methods during sex, including condoms and diaphragms. Medications used to treat a yeast infection can interfere with the materials in condoms, and they can irritate the genitals.
Yeast infections can be caused by a variety of factors, and a yeast infection can affect anyone, regardless of age or sex. Pregnancy, hormones, and illnesses that disrupt or change the balance of good bacteria in the body can lead to an overgrowth of candida. Unmanaged diabetes can increase the risk of yeast infections, as can stress and lack of sleep. Some medications, such as antibiotics and steroids, can kill the “good” bacteria that help to prevent yeast infections.
Yeast Infections Are Symptomatic
A yeast infection causes itching, pain during urination and during sexual activity. It is also accompanied by a thick, clumpy white discharge that looks like cottage cheese. The fungus Candida, which is normally found in the vaginal area, is usually kept in check by a healthy population of lactobacillus bacteria. When this balance is disrupted, it can lead to an overgrowth of the fungus and penetration into deeper vaginal tissue, which causes symptoms.
Yeast infections can occur in people of all ages. They are not considered a sexually transmitted disease (STI) because they do not spread from person to person. They can be caused by other things, however, including hormone changes, such as those that happen during pregnancy, breastfeeding or when using birth control pills; diabetes, where high levels of sugar impact the good bacteria in the body; and some medications, such as antibiotics and steroids.
Yeast infections are very easy to treat with creams, ointments or suppositories. These are available over the counter or by prescription. If the condition persists, a doctor can do a pelvic exam with a small speculum. They may also swab the genital area and vagina for a culture to determine what type of yeast is causing the infection. The swab will be sent to a lab for analysis. Oral treatment with fluconazole (Diflucan) is another option. This is a pill that most women need only once.
Yeast Infections Are Treatable
Yeast infections are easily treated with over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medicines. These include a suppository, cream or pill taken by mouth (fluconazole is the most effective). If a girl has frequent yeast infections, she may need to take medications regularly. She should not use tampons or diaphragms with these medicines, as they can weaken them. She should not have vaginal sex until the yeast infection clears up.
Having small amounts of Candida yeast on the skin and in the mouth, digestive tract, and vagina is normal. Normally, the immune system and “good” bacteria keep Candida under control. But, when something changes the balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina, Candida can grow out of control. This can happen if the person has:
A weakened immune system due to HIV or treatment with certain medicines (steroids, chemotherapy, or post-organ transplant medications). Diabetes — especially when blood sugar is not well controlled. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or menopause.
If a woman suspects she has a yeast infection, her health care provider will examine the vulva and rectum for signs of redness, swelling, or abnormal discharge. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will swab the inside of the vagina and send it to a laboratory for testing. The swab is then examined under a microscope for the presence of Candida. If the swab is positive, the doctor can prescribe antifungal medication that will quickly clear the infection.