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Can a yeast infection turn into an std: STD vs. Yeast Infection | Symptoms & Causes

STD vs. Yeast Infection | Symptoms & Causes

Medically reviewed on September 28, 2022 by Karen Jansen, MS, MD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

  • What is an STD?
  • What is a yeast infection?
  • Symptoms that STDs and yeast infections have in common
  • 4 differences in symptoms between STDs and yeast infections
  • STD vs. yeast infection: Comparing causes
  • Find out if it’s a yeast infection or an STD with Everlywell
  • Related content

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and yeast infections have plenty in common. With a range of similar symptoms, it’s understandable why many people have difficulties telling them apart.

However, recognizing one or the other is essential, as that knowledge can inform your next steps. STDs and yeast infections can worsen if left untreated, so it’s worth learning to distinguish one from the other.

To that end, we’re taking you through an STD vs. yeast infection comparison, touching on the symptoms and causes that can help you differentiate them.

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What is an STD?

A sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection that passes through sexual contact. When a person is infected with a parasite, virus, or strain of bacteria that causes an STD, they can give it to another person during oral, vaginal, or anal sex. The infection can also pass during intimate contact like kissing or touching. What happens if you have an STD while pregnant? An STI can pass from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

Some STIs show no symptoms for weeks or months. Syphilis, for example, can lie dormant in the body for years without showing symptoms. [1] Other STIs cause only mild symptoms. Therefore, it is possible to be infected with an STD, and be contagious, and not be aware. This is why sexual health testing is so important.

It’s worth noting there are more than 30 types of STDs. Some of the most common are[12]:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Genital Herpes
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
  • HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
  • Pubic lice
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis

What is the most common STD in the United States? The most common is HPV. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2 in 5 people ages 15 to 59 years will have HPV.[2]

What is a yeast infection?

Yeast is a fungus that grows naturally in small amounts on the skin, inside the digestive tract, and in the vaginal area. In most cases, this fungus is entirely harmless. However, a yeast infection (also known as candidiasis), can occur when the yeast grows and multiplies out of control.

Yeast grows best in warm, moist places. As such, yeast infections may develop in several of the same areas of the body where STDs can occur, such as:

  • Between skin folds
  • The mouth (thrush)
  • The corners of the mouth (angular cheilitis)
  • The navel
  • The vagina (yeast vaginitis)
  • The nail beds
  • The penis

Yeast infections that occur in the same places as STDs—the mouth, vagina, and penis—are the infections most often confused with STIs.

Symptoms that STDs and yeast infections have in common

It’s no wonder that many people are unsure if they have a yeast infection or an STD—both have many similar symptoms. These include: [3,4]

  • Itchiness
  • Irritation
  • Redness
  • Discharge
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Pain or discomfort during sex

If you notice one or more of these symptoms, you may have a yeast infection, an STD, or another medical problem. With that said, you can look at other hints to form a clearer picture.

4 differences in symptoms between STDs and yeast infections

Although STDs and yeast infections share several symptoms, some signs point to only one of these health conditions. Understanding which symptoms are indicators of infection can help you determine whether you should take a test, see a healthcare provider, or visit a pharmacy.

With that in mind, let’s look at some symptoms that differ between yeast infections and STDs.

1. Sores or blisters

One telltale difference between an STD and a yeast infection is an STD may develop sores, warts, or blisters. Yeast infections of the mouth, vagina, or penis will not cause visible sores. For example:

  • Genital Herpes – The most apparent sign of herpes is the outbreak of a cluster of small blisters, over tender, red skin, on or near the genitals, rectum, or inner thighs.
  • Syphilis – Syphilis usually begins as a single painless sore (called a chancre) on the genitals, anus, or—more uncommonly—the mouth.
  • HPV – HPV may cause warts to appear on the mouth, throat, genitals, or anus.[5]

2. Abnormal discharge

Both yeast infections and various STDs can trigger abnormal discharge from the genitals, but the color, appearance, and odor of the vaginal discharge can differ.

In the case of a vaginal yeast infection, vaginal discharge is usually thin and watery or thick, white, and odor-free.[6] One factor to pay attention to is texture—the discharge from a yeast infection is often referred to as “cottage cheese-like.”

As for STDs, the discharge may differ depending on the STD. For example, gonorrhea can cause the penis to emit a cloudy white or yellow discharge.[7] It can also lead to discharge from the rectum (which is not a symptom of a yeast infection). With trichomoniasis, the discharge is more likely to be foamy, gray-green or yellow in color, and fishy in odor.[8] The discharge that may accompany a Chlamydia infection may also have a strong, unpleasant odor.

3. Cuts, cracks, or tears

You’re likely dealing with a yeast infection if you notice small tears or cracks over red skin around your vagina or penis.[6] Because the skin on these parts of the body is soft and sensitive, the irritative nature of a yeast infection can cause paper-cut-like markings on the affected areas. Similarly, cracks or cuts at the corners of the mouth often indicate an oral yeast infection.

STDs aren’t known to cause tiny cuts or cracks on the skin’s surface. While the itchiness caused by many STDs can encourage scratching and lead to an irritated genital area, tearing and cracking are uncommon.

4. Pain

Although yeast infections can be itchy and uncomfortable, they don’t tend to cause pain beyond the affected area. Having intercourse or peeing during a yeast infection may trigger a local “burning” sensation, but in general, a yeast infection does not cause pain elsewhere.

On the other hand, some STDs cause pain and tenderness in other areas of the body. Examples include:

  • Genital Herpes – The onset of genital herpes infection may include flu-like symptoms such as headaches and muscle aches.
  • Chlamydia – When chlamydia spreads, it can cause pain in the lower abdomen or testicles.[9]
  • Syphilis – Secondary-stage syphilis can lead to headaches and muscle pain, while syphilis that spreads to the eyes (ocular syphilis) can cause eye pain.[10]

5. Fever

When you start to experience multiple symptoms, it can be challenging to determine the root cause. However, one clue that can help you rule out a yeast infection is a fever.

Most yeast infections are considered “uncomplicated.” Because these infections are mild to moderate, they rarely come with a fever. The only exception is an “invasive” yeast infection. This severe form of yeast infection can lead to a fever; if you experience some of the telltale signs of a yeast infection along with a fever, consider contacting your medical provider right away.

A fever is much more likely to point to an STD. Fever is a well-known symptom of severe cases of:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • HIV
  • Secondary stage syphilis

Ultimately, if you experience a sustained fever, consult a healthcare provider—regardless of any other symptoms you may have.

STD vs. yeast infection: comparing causes

Another way to determine if you have a yeast infection or an STD is to consider the cause. While it is often impossible to trace an infection back to its beginning, you may be able to make an educated guess at the cause of your symptoms by thinking about your activity over the past few weeks or months.

Potential causes of STDs

The most common cause of STDs is unprotected sex. While condoms are not 100% effective, they can reduce the risk of spreading and catching STDs through sexual contact.

However, STDs don’t always pass from person to person during sex. Some STIs, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, are also bloodborne, meaning they can spread by entering the bloodstream. As such, sharing syringes, body piercing equipment, or tattooing devices can occasionally lead to a sexually transmitted disease.

Potential causes of yeast infections

Some of the possible causes of yeast infections include:

  • Recent antibiotic use – Yeast infections occur commonly in people who have taken antibiotics. As the antibiotic kills the offending bacteria, yeast may overgrow.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes – Increases in blood sugar level are associated with an increased risk of yeast infection.
  • Changes in hormones – If you’re pregnant or taking hormonal contraceptives (birth control), you may be more likely to experience a vaginal yeast infection.
  • Not allowing the body to dry off – Because yeast thrives in warm, moist environments, wearing wet swimsuits or sitting in a hot tub for long periods can increase your chances of developing a yeast infection.
  • A weakened immune system – Your immune system keeps fungi like yeast in check. When your immune system is altered due to chemotherapy, steroid medications, or a different infection, yeast infections become more likely.

Find out if it’s a yeast infection or an STD with Everlywell

Even when you know all the differences between yeast infections and STDs, it’s not always easy to determine what’s causing your symptoms—especially if those symptoms are causing you any stress.

For the peace of mind that comes with certainty, consider taking a confidential at-home STD test. When you take an Everlywell test, you can find out if it’s one of six common STDs or not within days of testing—no trip to the clinic required. We mail you a discreetly packaged sexual health test, and you send your sample back to our lab. You can also check for individual STIs with tests such as the trich test, Syphilis Test, and Hepatitis C Test.

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  1. Syphilis. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published September 25, 2021. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  2. HPV and Men – Fact Sheet. CDC. URL. Accessed September 30, 2022.
  3. Yeast infections. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  4. Sexually transmitted diseases | STD | venereal disease. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  5. Common STD symptoms. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published May 5, 2022. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  6. Yeast infection (vaginal). Mayo Clinic. URL. Published March 17, 2021. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  7. Gonorrhea | the clap. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  8. Trichomoniasis | trich | STD. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  9. Chlamydia infections | chlamydia | chlamydia symptoms. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  10. STD facts – syphilis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published February 10, 2022. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  11. Yeast infection on face or lips: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed September 28, 2022.
  12. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). World Health Organization. URL. Accessed October 10, 2022.

What You Need to Know

Women, Yeast Infections, and Sexual Activity

But yeast infections can share many of the same symptoms as some STIs or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as vaginal itching, burning, pain, and discharge. (1)

Given the prevalence of STDs and yeast infections, it’s not unreasonable for a woman to wonder if a yeast infection may increase her risk of other vaginal infections.

For the most part, yeast infections aren’t associated with the development of an STD. But by scratching to relieve vaginal itching, you may inadvertently create microscopic tears in the skin that allow bacteria or viruses that cause STDs to enter your body more easily. (2)

HIV and Vaginal Yeast Infections

Though yeast infections aren’t typically associated with STDs, they do have a well-known connection to HIV/AIDS, an STD that is often spread through sexual activity. HIV/AIDS can also be transmitted through direct contact of bodily fluids with an open wound or a tear in the skin and dirty needles.

HIV is a known risk factor for yeast infections — it suppresses the immune system, allowing opportunistic infections to take root. In women living with HIV, vaginal yeast infections occur more frequently and are more difficult to treat, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (3)

Some research also suggests that the connection works the other way around: vaginal yeast infections may increase a woman’s risk of getting HIV.

In one study, researchers looked at women who were not HIV positive but who were in a sexual relationship with someone who was.

They found that the women who eventually contracted HIV were significantly more likely to have had yeast infections.

They concluded that women in high-risk relationships should receive regular gynecological evaluation and be taught how to prevent yeast infections — and to treat them quickly when they do occur — to decrease their risk of HIV infection. (4)

Since yeast infections can irritate the vaginal lining even if you haven’t been scratching, it’s a good idea to use condoms if you plan to be sexually active while you have a yeast infection and don’t know the HIV status of your partner.

Of course, this is standard advice even when you don’t have a yeast infection.

Vaginal Yeast Infections and Safe Vaginal Sex

Generally, it’s recommended to wait to have sex until after your infection clears — which typically only takes one to seven days with antifungal medications. (1)

If you’re considering having sex while you have a vaginal yeast infection, it’s important to first consider the risks.

For one thing, the vaginal itching and burning associated with yeast infections may make sex uncomfortable or painful and increase vaginal burning and inflammation. (7)

Additionally, the friction involved with penetrative sex can cause tiny tears in the vagina, making you more susceptible to STDs.

Another thing that might hinder you from having sex is the yeast infection treatment method you’re using.

If you’re using creams to treat your vaginal yeast infection, it’s best to delay intercourse until the therapy is complete, as sex can essentially push the medication out of the vagina. (7)

What’s more, some medications contain oils that can break down condoms. (2) Condoms should generally only be used with water-based or silicone-based lubricants, otherwise they can be damaged and ineffective for STD and pregnancy prevention. Instructions for which type of lubricant is safe to use should be found on the condom package.

In general, yeast infections aren’t frequently spread from one partner to another during sex. Even so, there are situations where it does happen. (8)

Men, Yeast Infections, and Sexual Activity

It’s possible for men to get a yeast infection from a sex partner who also has an infection.

The risk of men getting a yeast infection through sex is low, but up to 15 percent of men may get an uncomfortable rash on their penis if they have unprotected sex with a woman who has a yeast infection.

The rate seems to be highest among men who are not circumcised and men with diabetes. (8)

In lesbian relationships, it’s possible that yeast infections may be spread from one partner to another through oral sex, although the issue has not yet been studied extensively.

In one study, researchers found that women were more likely to get repeat yeast infections if they recently engaged in cunnilingus (oral sex involving the vagina) or masturbated with saliva (theirs or their partner’s), though the study focused on heterosexual couples. (9)

If your partner (male or female) begins to experience any signs of a yeast infection, such as itching, burning, redness, or discharge, he or she should see a doctor to confirm the diagnosis and begin treatment.

While less common, it’s also possible to get an anal yeast infection, due to many of the same factors that cause vaginal yeast infections, such as damp or tight-fitting clothing, poor hygiene, and excessive sweating. It can also be caused by a buildup of Candida in the intestines that travels into the anal canal. Like a vaginal yeast infection, an anal yeast infection is not considered an STD, but it can be spread through unprotected anal sex. (10)

Although yeast infections aren’t dangerous for most people, they can cause discomfort such as vaginal itching and burning.

Decisions regarding sexual activity during a yeast infection ultimately depend on what you and your partner feel most comfortable doing.

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Yeast infections (fungus) in women

Every woman will experience a yeast infection at some point in her life. A yeast infection is an irritating infection of the vagina and vulva that causes itching, discharge, and irritation. This is a type of vaginitis caused by an overgrowth of a yeast known as Candida albicans and is often easily treated at home, but can sometimes be severe enough to require a visit to a doctor.

On average, three out of four women experience a yeast infection. Some women have several throughout their lives. Although this disease is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, the fungus can be spread through oral contact with the female genitalia. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a yeast infection and when you should see your OB/GYN.

Signs and symptoms of yeast infections

Signs and symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection can range from mild to more severe. These include the following:

  • burning sensation, especially when urinating or during intercourse;
  • itching and irritation in the vagina and vulva;
  • redness and swelling of the vulva;
  • thick, white or greyish vaginal discharge resembling cottage cheese;
  • vaginal rash;
  • pain and soreness in the vagina;
  • watery vaginal discharge.

Yeast infection risk factors

There are certain risk factors that can lead to the development of a yeast infection. These include the following:

  • taking antibiotics;
  • lack of sleep;
  • hormonal imbalance during the menstrual cycle;
  • taking hormone therapy or oral contraceptives;
  • stress;
  • malnutrition, especially when eating too many sugary foods;
  • pregnancy;
  • diabetes;
  • weakened immune system;
  • wearing clothes that are too tight.

A yeast infection can be caused by a number of reasons, but the most common cause is the fungus Candida albicans. The vagina has a natural balance of this substance, as well as other bacteria. However, in some cases there may be an overgrowth of Candida, leading to the development of a yeast infection. As a result, you may experience a combination of classic symptoms such as burning, itching, and soreness. Even women who are not sexually active can develop this infection.

Sometimes other types of Candida can also cause a yeast infection, but most drugs, especially over-the-counter ones, are for Candida albicans. If you develop a yeast infection caused by another type of Candida, treatment may be more difficult. If more aggressive treatment is needed, you may need to make an appointment with an OB/GYN.

Diagnosis of yeast infections

When you visit your OB/GYN, the doctor will run a test to determine if you have a yeast infection:

  • Review of medical history, including any past vaginal infections or sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Visual examination of the pelvis, external and internal parts of the vagina.
  • Biosampling, a sample of vaginal secretions, to determine what type of fungus is causing the infection.

Yeast infection treatment

Treatment for a simple yeast infection is usually straightforward for most women and may include the following options:

  • Prescription antifungal cream, ointment, suppositories, or tablets that last one, three, or seven days.
  • Single dose oral preparations
  • An over-the-counter antifungal cream or suppository that lasts three to seven days.

For more complex yeast infections, a doctor may suggest the following treatment options:

  • Prescription antifungal cream, ointment, suppositories, or tablets that last up to 14 days.
  • Multi-dose oral preparations.
  • Maintenance plan for recurrent yeast infections. (This type of treatment usually lasts longer than 14 days and may require oral medication once a week for six months or vaginal suppositories once a week. )

Visit your obstetrician-gynecologist. A yeast infection can be uncomfortable and affect your emotional state, but the problem is treatable. Check with your doctor so you can take action in time to avoid infection in the future.

What is a yeast infection?

Most healthy women have yeast in their vagina. But sometimes the yeast grows too strong and leads to infection. Yeast infections can be very annoying and unpleasant.

What causes yeast infections?

Vaginal yeast infection, also sometimes called vulvovaginal candidiasis, occurs when the healthy yeast that normally lives in the vagina gets out of control. This often results in itching and other annoying symptoms. The medical name for a yeast infection is “ candidiasis ” because they are usually caused by a type of yeast called candida.

When the immune system is reduced, the normal yeast that lives in the vagina can grow too large and lead to infection. Causes that may cause changes in your vaginal environment:

  • normal changes in hormone levels (as during the menstrual cycle)
  • antibiotics, cortisone and other drugs
  • pregnancy
  • diabetes mellitus
  • weak immune system
  • natural reaction to another person’s genital chemistry

Yeast infections can also occur on the penises and scrotum, but not as often. They can cause redness and irritation on your penis or scrotum.

Yeast infections are not STDs (these are infections that are passed from one person to another during vaginal, anal and oral sex). They are not contagious and cannot be passed on to another person during sex. But sexual contact sometimes leads to yeast infections—your body chemistry can react to the other person’s natural genital yeast and the bacteria that causes the yeast to grow.

People can also get a yeast infection in their mouth, throat, or tongue—this is called thrush.

What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?

Yeast infections often cause a curdled, white, lumpy vaginal discharge that usually does not smell (or smells only slightly different than usual).

Most yeast infections result in itching, burning and/or redness in or around the vagina. Vaginal itching usually gets worse the longer you have the infection. Sex may be uncomfortable or painful. In extreme cases, you may get cracks or sores on your vagina or vulva. If you have severe irritation, you may experience pain when urinating.

How to treat yeast infections?

Yeast infections can usually be easily treated in a few days with an antifungal medication. You can purchase medicated creams or suppositories for yeast infections.

Be sure to follow instructions and take all medicines, even if your symptoms go away before you are done. You can also treat yeast infections with one tablet (diflucan or fluconazole). Need a prescription from a doctor to get a yeast infection pill.

Do not have vaginal or oral sex until you have completed treatment and the infection has gone. Friction from sex may cause more irritation or make treatment more difficult. Some medications you use inside your vagina contain oil, which can cause condoms to break.

Even though yeast infections can be very itchy, try not to scratch the itch. This can aggravate irritation or scratch the skin, through which germs can spread and lead to more infections. There are over-the-counter creams that can be used on the vulva to soothe irritation. Your doctor can also give you tips to relieve burning and itching.

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