Does a Yeast Infection Smell?

Vaginal Yeast Infection

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Most women already know that a vaginal infection can be quite uncomfortable.  Naturally, it’s good to know the basics on how to avoid this pesky irritation. First, it should be noted that there are different types of vaginal infection. The two most common are Bacterial Vaginitis and the yeast infection. Luckily, myLAB Box allows you to test for both of these from the comfort of your own home.  The hassle is lessening already!

Vaginal Yeast Infection

Vaginal Yeast infections occur when the environment inside the vagina changes in a way that encourages the growth of a fungus called Candida. Yeast normally keeps the vagina clean, but too much yeast creates an imbalance that results in infection. This often causes itching, irritation and a change in the texture of your vaginal discharge, but not a change in odor. Three out of every four women experience at least one yeast infection in their lifetime. More than half experience several infections.

Every vagina has a slight scent, but when discharge has a very noticeable smell, or your vagina burns or itches, there is likely a problem. The two most common vaginal infections are Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) and yeast infection, and both have similar symptoms. BV is caused by elevated PH levels in the vagina and can result in a fishy odor, especially after sexual activity. Trichomoniasis, chlamydia and gonorrhea can also alter the smell of vaginal discharge.

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Vaginal Yeast Infection Symptoms

Typical yeast infection symptoms include:

  • A thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese but has no odor
  • Itching, burning, and/or redness and swelling in and around the vagina
  • Pain during sex
  • Discomfort when urinating

Yeast infections and BV are similar, but when you have a yeast infection the discharge is odorless and has a thicker consistency, similar to cottage cheese. BV will cause a thin, gray discharge and noticeable odor.

It is possible to have a yeast infection and not experience symptoms. These infections are only discovered through testing or physical examination by a doctor, but are not serious and do not require treatment unless you are pregnant.

What Causes a Yeast Infection?

Women of all ages get yeast infections. Many of these women are not sexually active. The best way to avoid a yeast infection is to avoid anything that disrupts the chemical balance of the vagina when possible. This means washing your vaginal area with natural, un-scented soap and water, or water alone. A yeast imbalance can be caused by:

  • Hormonal changes (from antibiotic use or having your period)
  • Becoming pregnant
  • Living with diabetes
  • Douching
  • Using shower gel or scented soaps
  • Spermicidal lubricants
  • Latex condoms (if you have a latex allergy)
  • Laundry detergent (if you have an allergy to the specific detergent)
  • Wearing tight pants
  • Not washing after you sweat (often after sex or exercise)

Yeast infections are not contagious and generally won’t spread to a partner during sexual intercourse, but they can make the transmission of other STDs more likely. Scratching an itchy vagina leaves small tears in the skin. STDs that are spread through bodily fluids are more likely to take hold if they come in contact with skin tears.

Preventing a Vaginal Infection 

There are several things you can do on a day-to-day basis that will help you to avoid getting these infections. Nothing is foolproof, but these actions will help to prevent the likelihood of an infection like Candida or BV.

Avoid Scented Soaps and Douches

Scented soaps and shower gels can cause irritation. Instead, wash your genital area with unscented soap and water, or water alone. Douching isn’t helpful either. In fact, it can do more harm than good. This is because it disrupts the balance of bacteria in your vagina and encourages infection.

Use Protection

Use protection, but try to avoid latex condoms and spermicidal lubricants during sex. Non-allergenic condoms are a better way to prevent infection. You may also try using a female condom, as BV can occur after sex. These condoms cover the inside of your vagina during intercourse.

Choose Your Clothing Carefully

Wearing loose clothing and cotton underwear means less irritation and chafing. This also helps prevent sweat from remaining in the area without proper circulation of air in the area. In addition, thongs can transfer germs from your anus to your vagina.

Testing and Treatment

Most of the time, yeast infections will either clear up by themselves or after a short course of medication. Treatment usually involves a pill taken orally, tablets inserted into your vagina (pessaries) or an external cream.

The V-Box

It is difficult to recognize the difference between a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis. Not only that, but several sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis, also present symptoms that are similar to these infections. Therefore, it is recommended that you test for all possible causes for your abnormal vaginal discharge. This V-Box is a combination home testing kit that screens for yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis, as well as all three of these STIs.

It is difficult to tell whether you have a yeast infection or an STD without testing because the symptoms are very similar. Untreated vaginal STDs can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and serious long term damage, including chronic pain, ectopic pregnancy and infertility.

For this reason, we highly recommend testing for common STDs (BV, Trichomoniasis, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea) if you think you have a yeast infection.

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Reviewed by Luis Ferdinand M. Papa, MD, MHA

References

  1. Eckert LO, Hawes SE, Stevens CE, et al. Vulvovaginal candidiasis: clinical manifestations, risk factors, management algorithm. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 1998.
  2. Wolner-Hanssen P, Krieger JN, Stevens CE, et al. Clinical Manifestations of Vaginal Trichomoniasis. Journal of the American Medical Association. 1989.
  3. Taylor, DePaoli B, Darville T, et al. Does Bacterial Vaginosis Cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease? Sexually Transmitted Diseases. . 2013.
  4. Abbott J. Clinical and Microscopic Diagnosis of Vaginal Yeast Infection: A Prospective Analysis. Annals of Emergency Medicine. 1995.
  5. Beigi RH, Meyn LA, Moore DM, et al. Vaginal Yeast Colonization in Nonpregnant Women: A longitudinal Study. Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2004.
  6. Sobel JD. Vaginal Infections in Adult Women. Medical Clinics of North America. 1990.

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