When we think of yeast infections, most people only assume women can get it. It is more common in women, but men can get yeast infections too. Anyone can get a yeast infection, regardless of age or sex.
Yeast infections in men is a condition known as balanitis - inflammation of the penis head. In uncircumcised men, the infection can also go on to affect the foreskin - balanoposthitis. Candida, the fungus that causes yeast infection, is normally present on our body. It is especially found on moist skin and this is an ideal environment for candida to spread. When candida overgrows, a yeast infection develops. The overgrowth of the candida fungus usually occurs when there is a contributing factor such as having a female sexual partner who has a vaginal yeast infection. Usually, most cases of yeast infection resolve on their own or within a few days with treatment.
If not treated or resolved, balanitis can lead to a wide range of symptoms - usually painful, uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing. If the infection spreads to the bloodstream it can lead to some serious complications. Hence, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of a yeast infection and what to do to treat it.
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Unlike women, men don’t usually experience symptoms of yeast infections. However, when symptoms do present they are usually painful and cause discomfort.
Symptoms of balanitis include:
- Irritation and itchiness of the penis
- Burning with urination (dysuria)
- Foreskin sores
- White foul-smelling discharge
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Redness and inflammation
- Small rash-like bumps that may contain pus (sometimes it can present with white, shiny patches on the penis)
A major risk factor is having sexual intercourse with a partner that has a yeast infection. However, there are several other risk factors that can increase your chances of developing balanitis.
The risk factors are:
- Being uncircumcised
- The area under your foreskin can become a potential breeding ground for candida to grow and multiply
- It is important to properly clean and wash that area to prevent putting yourself at risk
- Prolonged use of antibiotics
- This prolonged use allows for the growth of candida as it lowers the body’s probiotic count
- Men with diabetes have a higher concentration of sugar in their urine, promoting the growth of the candida fungus
- Weakened immune system due to cancer treatment or HIV
- Poor hygiene practices
- Using soaps that irritate the skin
- Using spermicide
- Condoms that contain lubricants
- Hot and humid environments
- Wearing tight underwear or wet clothes
When is it time to see a doctor?
If the yeast infection is left untreated for a long period of time, it can go on to become a condition called chronic prostatitis.
It is important to go see your doctor or urologist as soon as you notice any symptoms. If you are unable to get an appointment, consider visiting the emergency room. The sooner you get yourself checked out there will be a smaller likelihood of having any complications. Do not try and diagnose yourself as there are many other diagnoses that present with similar symptoms.
The doctor might examine your penis and run some tests before making a diagnosis. The tests can include a swab of your penis that will be looked under a microscope or cultured to determine the type of fungus that is causing your symptoms.
Most mild yeast infections can resolve on their own and don’t require treatment. Topical antifungal creams and ointments are strong enough to clear up the yeast infection.
These medications are available over the counter (OTC) in a pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription. So if you have had a yeast infection before, you can easily get the medication you need straight away from your local pharmacy. It is important to note that if you have not been treated for a yeast infection before, make sure to see a doctor before treating yourself.
Recommended antifungal creams for the treatment of balanitis are:
For serious infections, different medications are required and these will need a doctor’s prescription. In this scenario, oral fluconazole and hydrocortisone cream are advised.
Antifungal creams do not pose serious side effects, however, they differ based on each cream. Make sure to check the label and make sure to look out for any reaction you might have to the treatment.
Topical antifungal treatments are one way to treat yeast infections. However, ensuring good hygiene practices is a good way to help prevent yeast infections and in some cases even treat them. Regularly washing your penis with plain warm water, avoiding any forms of perfumed shower gels or soaps, ensuring to dry their genitals after. Some other important tips to prevent the growth of yeast include wearing loose-fitting clothing and underwear and keeping the genitals dry and cool at all times.
- "Penile Yeast Infection: Symptoms, Treatment, and More", 2020 [accessed 29 March 2020].
- "How Male Yeast Infections Are Treated", 2020 [accessed 29 March 2020].