Vaginal itching, soreness, irritation, or painful urination and sex are some of the symptoms that yeast infections and some STDs have in common. This can cause many to wonder, “Do I have a yeast infection or is this an STD? How can I know the difference?”
When to See Your OBGYN
Ultimately, you can’t know for sure if you have a yeast infection or an STD unless you get tested by a doctor. You’ll want to set up an appointment as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Vaginal or vulvar itching, soreness, and irritation
- A burning feeling during sex or urination
- Think, white discharge
- Any discharge that has an unusual odor or color
- Redness and swelling around your vulva or genital area
- Unusual skin conditions on your vulva such as blisters, cracking, or scaly white patches
- Bleeding after sex or between menstrual periods
- Lower abdominal pain
- Bleeding during or after a bowel movement
- Anal leakage
All of these symptoms can be indicators of a yeast infection, STDs, or other medical conditions that need to be addressed by a medical professional.
A Look at Yeast Infections
Yeast infections are actually quite common, with 3 out of 4 women experiencing them at some point in their lifetime (and men can experience them, too). For women, a yeast infection is a common fungal infection that develops when there is too much yeast in your vagina. Every woman has yeast in her vagina, and there is a certain amount that is healthy and normal. But when the bacteria in your vagina becomes unbalanced, it can lead to an overgrowth of a specific type of yeast called Candida, resulting in an uncomfortable yeast infection.
Most yeast infections are mild and can clear up within a few days with OTC treatment or prescribed medications. But others can be more severe and may take up to two weeks to clear. Some mild yeast infections can occasionally go away without any treatment and the help of home remedies, but more often than not, you will need OTC or prescription medications to treat the yeast infection.
If you choose to treat your condition with OTC medication or natural remedies and the symptoms don’t go away, you need to see a medical professional who can diagnose and treat you. You may be dealing with something other than a yeast infection.
When It Isn’t a Yeast Infection: STDs & Other Health Issues
Yeast infections can resemble other vaginal health issues. If you are treating your symptoms and aren’t experiencing any relief for weeks, then you likely need a doctor to prescribe stronger medication (if it’s a confirmed yeast infection) or you need to get tested or examined for other vaginal health issues. Here are some other things you could be experiencing:
Chlamydia or Gonorrhea
Yeast infections tend to cause a lot of inflammation, but so do STDs like Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. They also produce an abnormal discharge, as do yeast infections, but there are some notable differences in the discharge. While yeast infections produce thick, white, cottage-cheese like discharge, Chlamydia can cause white, green or yellow discharge. Gonorrhea discharge is white or green. And neither discharge from Chlamydia or Gonorrhea are typically cottage-cheese like. This is an important difference. And neither of these go away without antibiotics, so it’s important to see your doctor for treatment if you suspect you may have Chlamydia or Gonorrhea.
Although this STD is more commonly (70%) symptom-free, the 30% of people who do experience symptoms usually experience vaginal burning, itching, and thin discharge that is clear, white, yellow, or green. Other symptoms that can be associated are discomfort while peeing and a fishy smell. To fully rid yourself of Trichomoniasis, you will need antibiotics for treatment, and it’s also recommended that your partner gets treated as well to completely knock out the infection.
If you don’t know to look for the typical, painful genital sores that come with Herpes, you may mistake your other symptoms for a yeast infection. Like yeast infections, Herpes causes itching and burning in the vagina. Unlike yeast infections, it has the aforementioned sores and does not typically have vaginal discharge. Herpes is not curable, but a doctor can provide you with antiviral medications that suppress outbreaks and other medications that may help with discomfort.
Although not technically an STD, Bacterial Vaginosis is a common vaginal health issue in sexually active women between the ages of 15 and 44. This issue arises when the “bad” bacteria in your vagina outweigh the “good” bacteria. Bacterial Vaginosis can be identified by symptoms of burning and itching of the vagina, as well as a grayish discharge that gives off a fishy smell. It is typically treatable with antibiotics but may go away on its own as well. In any case, it’s always a good idea to see a medical professional to be checked.
Also not an STD, Hemorrhoids can actually be the culprit of vaginal pain. These can happen when a blood clot develops in a vein near the opening of your anus as a result of straining from exercise, bowel movements, or childbirth. If you have Hemorrhoids, a medical professional will be able to diagnose it and provide you with a treatment plan.
OTC Treatments vs. Seeing a Doctor
If you have had yeast infections before (less than four a year) and you are certain that is what you’re experiencing, then you should be fine buying OTC medications for it. If time passes and the medications obviously aren’t doing anything, you’ll want to see a doctor as soon as possible.
If you’ve never had yeast infections or just aren’t sure, visiting a doctor is the best option. Better safe than sorry by making assumptions when lab tests can easily provide a diagnosis and a doctor can treat you while also answering all of your questions.
Do you need a doctor you can trust to give you a medical diagnosis and provide treatment? We have an incredible team that you’ll feel comfortable with and that can assist you! Reach out to us today if you’d like to schedule an appointment.