With 75% of women experiencing a yeast infection in their life, the condition is widely associated as being a vaginal problem. But, what about the rest of the population — can men get a yeast infection? Here’s everything you need to know about penile yeast infections.
Can men get yeast infections?
Yes, men can get yeast infections just like women, but how many men who get one each year is unclear.
A yeast infection occurs when there is an overgrowth of the fungus candida. This fungus typically lives in trace amounts on the skin and is kept in check by beneficial bacteria that help regulate the skin’s pH levels. However, under the right conditions — specifically warm, moist environments like the genitals — candida can grow and spread.
An overgrowth of the candida fungus leads to a condition in men known as balanitis, in which the head of the penis becomes inflamed. This is known as a penile yeast infection. The condition is generally treatable, and knowing the symptoms of penile yeast infections can not only help you cure it early on but also ensure you spend less time in discomfort.
Causes and risk factors of penile yeast infections
According to Robert Mordkin, MD, CMO of LetsGetChecked and chief of urology at Virginia Hospital Center, other factors — in addition to a moist environment — that can lead to penile yeast infections include:
- Poor hygiene can provide a breeding ground for candida to develop into a penile yeast infection. Thoroughly cleaning your genitals under every skin fold, especially if you are uncircumcised, can decrease your chances of an infection occurring.
- Irritated or damaged skin from a cut or friction from clothing.
- Unprotected intercourse with a partner who has a yeast infection. When a man has sex with someone who has a vaginal yeast infection, the condition can spread to their penile area. Until a yeast infection is treated, avoiding sex — especially without a condom — can ensure that the condition does not spread to others. While condoms may help to prevent the spread, it is not a guaranteed method.
Certain pre-existing conditions can also increase your risk of a penile yeast infection, says Giuseppe Aragona, MD, a general practitioner and family doctor at Prescription Doctor, an online healthcare service. According to Aragona and Mordkin, risk factors include:
- Having an uncircumcised penis which allows for candida to potentially get trapped under the foreskin
- Having a weakened immune system
- Having diabetes — a condition Morkin calls the “single greatest risk factor” for penile yeast infections
- Taking a long course of antibiotics, as the medicine can potentially kill off beneficial bacteria that work to prevent yeast infections
Symptoms of penile yeast infections
A person may experience some but not all of the signs associated with penile yeast infections. According to Aragona and Mordkin symptoms include:
- White discharge that is the consistency of cottage cheese
- General aching in the area
How to get rid of male yeast infections
Yeast infections in men should be treated similarly to those in women, says Aragona.
Oral antifungal medications like fluconazole are the treatment of choice for most penile yeast infections, says Mordkin. However, he cautions that more severe cases may necessitate the use of intravenous medications.
If you are exhibiting signs of a yeast infection, it is recommended that you visit a doctor immediately. “Particularly in a man with diabetes, medical evaluation and possible treatment should be pursued so that the infection can be brought under control rather than advancing into a more serious situation,” says Mordkin.
If left untreated, penile yeast infections can lead to numerous adverse health effects including:
- The skin turns hard and white, making it difficult to urinate.
- Scarring on the penis, which constricts the foreskin so severely that it can not retract.
- A greater risk of developing balanoposthitis, a condition in which the foreskin and glands become inflamed.
In rare cases, a severe course of action involving surgical circumcision may also occur, Mordkin explains. The latter is recommended when a person has recurring yeast infections, usually the result of incredibly tight foreskin.
Anyone who believes that they have a yeast infection can also visit a sexual health clinic to obtain a prescription for antifungal medicine. Once treatment begins, Aragona says the yeast infection should resolve itself within a week.
The bottom line
While commonly associated with women, men are also able to get yeast infections. Penile yeast infections can not only be painful but also dangerous if left untreated.
If you notice itching, irritation, or white discharge, visit your doctor. They can prescribe you an antifungal that resolves the infection in about a week.
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