Guys usually think a yeast infection is pretty funny until they realize they can get one, too. The results aren’t very much fun either. So what causes it? An overgrowth of candida yeast. The most common type is Candida albicans and others include Candida balanitis and Candida moniliasis.
Much like the trillions of other microbes in billions of different varieties living on the outside and inside your body, candida yeast is naturally occurring on the skin and in the mucous membranes. For instance, it lives harmlessly in the mouth. An infection occurs not when it’s present but when there’s an overabundance of it.
Generally speaking, uncircumcised men are more likely to develop the condition. Why do you ask? It takes more effort to keep the area underneath the foreskin clean and well-maintained. Failing to do so can have poor results, such as an infection.
While there’s a small movement to maintain the foreskin after birth rather than perform a circumcisions carte blanche, studies have shown that besides greater pains to keep it clean and a greater risk of a yeast infection, uncircumcised men may have a higher risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STIs) such as HIV. There are men in other situations that make them more susceptible to a yeast infection too. These include the obese, diabetics, those who have a compromised immune system (such as HIV/AIDS patients), men who have been on antibiotics long-term, and those who engage in poor hygiene practices.
The symptoms are redness, itching, or burning in the area, especially along the penis itself. Swelling, irritation, and shiny or white patches of skin may also occur. Other symptoms include a thick, white substance collecting in skin folds and a white discharge underneath the foreskin. That same area may also give off an unpleasant odor. Men oftentimes falsely believe they have an STD because a lot of the symptoms are the same as a yeast infection.
Those who do get it are often embarrassed twice. The first time, they’re ashamed to think something is wrong “down there.” Then they think it’s an STI, which they find even more alarming. However, even if it is, know that these diseases are exceedingly common. 50% of Americans by age 25 will have had at least one STD. What’s more, all are treatable and most, outright curable. So would you be more embarrassed to have a yeast infection or an STD? An STD sounds manlier but a yeast infection is probably easier to cure.
Usually, just one appointment can clear up the problem. See a primary care physician or urologist for help with this. The most common cause is when a man has had unprotected sex with a woman who has a yeast infection, or thrush as it’s sometimes called, but poor hygiene can make one more susceptible to it.
Most likely, a doctor will have to hear your symptoms, review your medical history, and possibly even your sexual history before making a diagnosis. A physical exam may also be required. So what’s the cure?
The physician will most likely prescribe an over-the-counter antifungal medication. This is usually an ointment or cream which will help clear up the infection. More serious, long-term infections, however, may require a prescription of oral medication, which one will have to diligently take over the course of a few weeks.
In most instances, these medications are well-tolerated with few side effects. Just know that if the infection isn’t treated properly, it could lead to a potentially dangerous condition called balanitis, which is where scar tissue occurs on the penis. Note that too much scar tissue can cause an unnatural curvature or even lead to erectile dysfunction in extreme cases.
Further, in real long-term cases, the infection can enter the bloodstream, a condition known as candidemia or invasive candidiasis. Those men who have weakened immune systems are more likely to develop this. If it isn’t treated right away, it can turn serious.
It’s important that a man address such an infection with his partner and that she gets treated as well, or else each can re-infect the other. Those men who repeatedly develop a yeast infection and are uncircumcised may need to undergo a circumcision in order to stop re-infection from recurring.