Women often misdiagnose themselves with a yeast infection, while their symptoms might indicate something else. Yeast infection, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or an allergic reaction to a particular thing may have similar symptoms. It’s best to consult your OB-GYN when you suspect any symptoms resembling a yeast infection and avoid misdiagnosing yourself and aggravating the situation with over-the-counter (OTC) medications.
Well, it’s no secret that none of us enjoys getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) or a yeast infection, even when every woman at least once in their life gets one of these infections, if not both.
But that doesn’t mean that you need to be ashamed of having a vaginal health issue because, let’s face it, these infections are bound to come with having a vagina.
What is a vaginal yeast infection?
A vaginal yeast infection, also called vulvovaginal candidiasis, is common among women of all ages.
Our vaginas already have their share of bacteria and yeast present there, and these are good bacteria and yeast that help protect the vagina. And when the balance between the bacteria and yeast rolls off, the yeast cells can multiply rapidly, causing a vaginal yeast infection.
By treating a vaginal yeast infection, the symptoms usually go away within a few days, but it can take longer to heal if the case is severe.
Vaginal yeast infections are not considered an STD because they’re not contagious and can’t be spread through intercourse, but a woman can get a yeast infection because of sexual contact.
This happens when your body reacts negatively to another person’s natural genital bacteria and yeast.
Even women who aren’t sexually active can get a vaginal yeast infection.
Symptoms of vaginal yeast infection
Some of the common vaginal yeast infection symptoms include:
- Burning while peeing
- Itching in the vaginal area around the vulva (i.e., the opening of the vagina)
- Pain during intercourse
- Burning in the vaginal area
- Vulvar rash
- White or gray discharge that may be thick and look like cottage cheese but doesn’t have a bad smell
- Greenish or yellowish vaginal discharge may also look like cottage cheese
- Inflammation of the vulva
Most vaginal yeast infections don’t have a strong smell or pungent odor.
Suppose you experience yeast infection-like symptoms with a fishy smell from your discharge.
In that case, chances are you’re suffering from bacterial vaginosis, a type of bacterial infection of the vagina.
Causes of vaginal yeast infection
Many causes can disrupt or change the environment in the vagina and cause the yeast to multiply, and they are:
- Douching, i.e., washing or cleaning out the inside of the vagina with water or other mixed liquids.
- Using feminine sprays
- Use of soap to clean the vagina
- Hormonal changes caused by ovulation, hormonal therapy, birth control pills, or menopause
- Wearing underwear that is tight
- Factors that can cause your immune system to weaken like cancer chemotherapies, HIV/AIDS, steroid use, etc.
- When the vagina is wounded or has scratches
- Antibiotic use
Conditions that mimic yeast infection symptoms
Other vaginal infections can mimic some of the signs of vaginal yeast infection like-
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
The common symptoms between a yeast infection and an STD are inflammation, itching, and burning in the vagina.
STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea can produce these similar symptoms.
Chlamydia can also cause white, yellow, or greenish discharge, and gonorrhea, on the other hand, might produce white or green discharge, but both times, the discharge isn’t known for looking like cottage cheese as it does with a yeast infection.
When these diseases are left untreated, they can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. This means that the bacteria can infect our reproductive organs, leading to infertility.
Trichomoniasis is also one of the STDs with symptoms like a yeast infection, like experiencing itching and burning, and a vaginal discharge that may be clear, whitish, yellowish, or greenish.
Even though there are similarities in the vaginal discharge colors between trichomoniasis and a yeast infection, a discharge because of trichomoniasis is a thin consistency.
To treat trichomoniasis, effective antibiotics are needed to prevent reinfection, and it’s recommended that your sexual partner should also get the treatment at the same time to avoid any future reinfections.
Herpes, another form of STD, can be distinguished from a yeast infection because the main symptom of herpes is painful genital sores.
And these sores are also known to cause itching, burning, and irritation in the vagina. But herpes, unlike a yeast infection, doesn’t have a vaginal discharge under its list of symptoms.
We have both bad and good bacteria, but when bad bacteria are more in proportion, you can have bacterial vaginosis.
Bacterial vaginosis can cause gray discharge or grayish-white and can have a fishy smell, itching and burning in the vaginal area, and while peeing.
Douching can also be one of the causes of bacterial vaginosis.
Yeast infections can be treated with necessary antifungal treatments, but on the other hand, to cure bacterial vaginosis, you’d need antibiotics.
Allergic reaction or sensitivity
Although vaginas are known to protect themselves through a good amount of bacteria and yeast, things like soaps, feminine sprays, douching, bad hygiene, and sanitary products can cause an allergic reaction or sensitivity, leading to inflammation, itching, and burning in the groin area.
The itching, which is generally associated with hemorrhoids, can also cause itching and burning sensation in the vaginal area.
Lack of estrogen
As women age, their estrogen level decreases, which can cause the skin to be thin, and sometimes this can lead to discomfort, itching, and burning in the area. Vaginal discharge can also be seen along with discomfort.
So, there are possibilities that you might have symptoms that mimic those of a vaginal yeast infection, but in reality, it might be the cause of other underlying conditions.
So, even when you get a negative test result on a yeast infection, make sure to ask your doctor to test you for STIs and go forward from there.
What are the symptoms of pH imbalance?
You may have symptoms like a pungent solid smell from the vagina, itching around the vulva, grey or green or foamy white discharge, burning sensation while peeing, or swelling around the vagina.
Do yeast infections go away on their own?
Mild yeast infections may go away on their own without any medications, but this is rare. It’s always a good idea to treat any yeast infection; otherwise, it increases its chances of occurring again.
Can you smell a yeast infection?
Yeast infections don’t typically have any noticeable vaginal odors, differentiating them from other vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis.
Are yeast infections harmful?
Vaginal yeast infections may be pretty uncomfortable, but they aren’t severe in most cases. You may have an itching, burning sensation in the vaginal area, but an antifungal treatment will likely clear all the symptoms.
Having symptoms like itching, inflammation, burning, and continuous discharge from the vaginal area is no walk in the park, and none of us enjoy it.
Although these symptoms might go away on their own or may take a few days to heal after necessary treatments, you shouldn’t diagnose yourself and treat it with OTC medications.
Sometimes, when you take OTC medications for an infection that isn’t there, it may aggravate and worsen your condition. So, talk to your OB-GYN and talk about the course of treatment instead of treating on your own or, worse, feeling ashamed to address such vaginal health issues.