Dear Asking For a Friend,
After dealing with an uncomfortable burning sensation “down there,” I found out that I have a yeast infection. Can that actually happen to men?
Signed, Just a Regular Guy
Dear Regular Guy,
If your genitals feel dry as dust, sex is suddenly painful and a funky new smell has appeared down there, you might have a yeast infection — regardless of your gender.
According to Dr. Yonah Krakowsky, urologist, sexual medicine surgeon, surgeon-educator and vice program director for the urology residency program at the University of Toronto, yeast infections are more common in people with a vagina, but theu can also affect roughly 15 per cent of those with a penis.
There are some universal signs, such as irritation, itching, burning and a sticky white discharge, but a yeast infection can look different for everyone. Some might experience redness with a cottage cheese-like discharge, while others, particularly those with a penis, might complain of a burning sensation, peeling or shiny skin. It’s possible to develop a yeast infection after penetrative or oral sex with an infected person, and visible signs can show up on the genitals or in the mouth.
Uncircumcised men are at a greater risk than men who have been circumcised, while people with non-retractile foreskins are the most susceptible. There is also evidence that suggests that wearing tight, synthetic clothing and using hormonal birth control or prescription antibiotics might increase the risk of an infection. Other factors, such as diabetes, obesity and a compromised immune system can also make a yeast infection more likely.
Regardless of how it’s acquired, yeast infections are caused by a fungus called candida. A small amount is present in the body and on the skin, but a moist environment can create a perfect breeding ground for bacteria to multiply and develop into a yeast infection.
The good news is that unlike some other conditions that can be transmitted through sex, a yeast infection can be treated with over-the-counter methods – creams and suppositories are available to manage the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection, as well as oral anti-fungal medication. A more stubborn or complicated penile yeast infection can be managed with prescribed medication.
“Individuals with foreskins should ensure they are bringing them back to expose the penis head and cleaning underneath the foreskin,” Krakowsky advises. “Those that cannot retract the foreskin in general should seek medical advice as there are creams and surgery that can help the situation.”
A yeast infection can be annoying, but luckily, easy lifestyle changes can help stop the spread of bacteria and prevent a recurrence. Experts recommend keeping the genitals clean, wearing breathable clothing and cotton underwear, and wiping from front to back. Probiotics, which you can find it foods including yogurt, sourdough bread and kimchi, can help with some of your symptoms. And it’s a good idea to abstain from penetrative and oral sex until your symptoms are completely cleared up.
Watch out for more serious conditions, too: yeast infections are generally nothing to worry about, but they can present in a similar way to more serious sexually transmitted infections such as herpes, genital warts and gonorrhea. Any new or persistent symptoms that affect the genitals should be evaluated by a healthcare provider right away — a urologist or gynecologist can determine the cause and offer treatment and advice on how to manage symptoms and prevent a recurrence.
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